Meet a Health Hero: Darren Sudman

"Our children get their eyes and ears checked in school. Shouldn’t we check their hearts, too?"

» You can vote for Darren here from August 22nd through September 18th.

Darren Sudman

Role: Co-founder of Simon’s Fund, a local nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about the conditions that lead to sudden cardiac arrest and death in young athletes and children, and Got AED, a crowdfunding site dedicated to getting AED devices where kids learn and play.

What motivates you to try and make Philadelphia a healthier place?
Losing students to detectable and treatable heart conditions is my motivation. Aidan Silva. Akhir Frazier. Ryan Gillyard. These are the names of just a few students who have died in the Philadelphia area from undetected heart conditions since my own son, Simon. Their deaths (and others) may have been prevented if our community was better prepared.  Sudden cardiac arrest takes the lives of thousands of kids every year. It is the #1 cause of death of student athletes. We can do better.

Describe a health or fitness-related turning point in your life.
Discovering the automated external defibrillator (AED). It is the only device that can save someone in cardiac arrest. It is inexpensive and automated. Yet, they are hard to find in places where our kids learn and play. Everywhere I looked, I saw fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, sprinkler systems, and security systems, but very few AEDs. I couldn’t (and still can’t) understand that if we are prepared to protect our kids from break ins and fire emergencies, why aren’t we prepared to protect them from a cardiac emergency (which is almost always fatal). That is when we launched GotAED, a crowdfunding site dedicated to getting AEDs where kids learn and play. 

What policy would you institute to make Greater Philadelphia a healthier region?
I would institute a heart smart policy. I would require all places where kids learn and play to possess an automated external defibrillator. I would also implement a mandatory heart screening program. Our children get their eyes and ears checked in school. Shouldn’t we check their hearts, too?

What’s the most important part of your health or wellness regimen?
Prevention. It is such an easy concept. I get my car inspected annually. Change the oil every 3,000 miles. Rotate the tires every 6,000. I have jumper cables in case the battery dies. Why don’t we have a similar regimen for our kids’ health. Get some exercise; eat decent food; visit the doctor; and check your heart. Our cars have one engine and body. So do our children.

What is your number one piece of health-related advice or encouragement?
Listen to your heart. If your child faints during or after exercise, get her heart checked. If his heart is racing when he’s not exercising, get his heart checked.  If she is extremely fatigued, get her heart checked. If he has trouble catching his breath, get his heart checked. In a study, seventy-two percent of parents who lost a child to sudden cardiac arrest said there was a symptom that went ignored. Learn these warning signs while we are waiting for heart screenings and AEDs to become more available.

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