BENEFITING: A HEART FOR SPORTS FOUNDATION
EVENT DATE: Feb 24, 2013
WHAT I AM DOING:
February 24th of I will be running in the Disney Princess Half-Marathon in order to raise money for the A Heart for Sports foundation.
Here is a little information on AHFS:"Founded in 1999, A Heart for Sports (AHFS) is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit California Public Benefit Corporation dedicated to saving young lives from sudden cardiac death through early detection and increased public awareness. AHFS conducts free community-based cardiac screenings for high school and collegiate student/athletes in an effort to prevent sudden cardiac death and to strengthen collaborative relationships among health professionals who care for cardiac conditions."
To learn more about AHFS and the great work they do, please visit their website: http://www.aheartforsports.org/aboutus.html
WHY I AM DOING IT:
We have all heard the stories on the news about the healthy teenager or professional athlete that dies suddenly in the middle of a football game or soccer practice for no apparent reason. More often than not, the cause is sudden cardiac death. As its name implies SCD has no warning signs and its results are final. These news stories are not unique but they are always shocking and hard to comprehend. According to the CDC 5,000 - 7,000 young people die each year of Sudden Cardiac Death.
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) is recognized as the #1 cause of sudden cardiac death in the United States. HCM--sometimes called enlarged heart--is a genetic condition that causes an enlargement of the septum of the heart and it is thought to affect 1 in 500 people of all ages. Patients who suffer from SCD due to HCM often have NO prior symptoms and are apparently healthy young athletes. Because it is asymptomatic, many athletes are never diagnosed with HCM in life, and their first symptom is sudden cardiac death. (For more information on HCM please visit http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/disorders/hcm/default.aspx)
Unfortunately, this was the case with my father, Rick Simmons. A sergeant for the SDPD and a life-long athlete, my dad carried his love of sports into his twenties and thirties playing on the Police Department's softball and football teams. One of the highlights of his adult athletic career was being elected MVP of the 1985 “Copper Bowl” played at Jack Murphy stadium. My dad loved to stay active and healthy and fostered a love of athletics and sportsmanship in me and my brother. He coached our teams and attended every game and practice that he possibly could. He was the picture of vitality and his infectious optimism inspired all those around him--his teammates, officers, family, and friends alike.
On February 24th, 1996 at the age of thirty-nine, my dad was playing flag-football with his SDPD team. At half-time he laid down on the grass to rest and never woke up. It wasn’t until after his death that doctors discovered he had Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. The terrifying thing is that he had just had a full physical a few weeks before and had been cleared for sports. Fortunately, my father had a very full, albeit shorter life and got to live out many of his life-long dreams, but this is not the case for the thousands of young people that die every year from undiagnosed HCM.
The good news is that HCM is 100% detectable by a test that takes only 15 minutes, and the disease can be well managed through medication, surgery, and/or life-style modification. The bad news is that current athlete physicals do not require the tests necessary to detect HCM (A 12 lead ECG followed by an echocardiogram when indicated) because the ECHO costs well over a thousand dollars per test, so most of our young athletes are not getting the tests necessary to potentially save their lives. (Italy has required this test as part of its pre-participation screening for student athletes since the 70’s, and they believe they have reduced SCD in their screened athletes by 89%. If we could accomplish this in America, we would save the lives of thousands of young people every year.) The bottom line is we can prevent sudden cardiac death in young people by making heart screenings more affordable and readily available to students and raising awareness of this silent killer.
Fortunately, there are many non-profit organizations like A Heart for Sports that provide free heart screens to student athletes using mobile technology and volunteer doctors, nurses, and technicians. The more hearts we screen, the more lives we can save.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
A few months ago when I first read about the 2013 Disney Princess Half-Marathon, I felt immediately compelled to sign up. Not only will the race be held on February 24th, the 17th anniversary of my father’s death, but also “princess” was his nickname for me, so the word has always had a special place in my heart. I could not resist the opportunity to honor my dad's memory and hopefully help prevent others from suffering the same loss I did. Firs things first, I got my ECHO (HCM is a dominant gene, so I had a high risk-factor) and got cleared to run! So, on February 24th I will be running 13.1 miles in order to raise money for the A Heart for Sports foundation.
Please consider making a donation in any amount to support A Heart for Sports and their crusade to prevent sudden cardiac death. While it is too late for my father and many like him, it is not too late to save the tens of thousands of young people living with undiagnosed hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and PLEASE talk to the parents of any teenage athletes in your life, and make sure that they take the time to get this life-saving test.