GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - To prevent sudden cardiac deaths in local schools, Sue Edson with ARVD Heart for Hope, Dr. Danny Mistry with Western Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, and Community Hospital joined together to purchase 50 automated external defibrillator (AED) devices for School District 51, and other regional schools."Community Hospital donated $77,000, with $70,000 for AEDs and $7,000 to trainings for coaches, teachers and staff," Edson said, noting that funds came from the Community Hospital Foundation's 2012 Gala fundraising event this past September."With the project, it creates a safer environment for sports and kids," Mistry said. "We can make a difference. It's the right thing to do because it benefits the entire community."The AEDs were purchased this fall and all schools in District 51 have an AED onsite, Edson added. "There is a total of 43 schools in School District 51, but the four high schools already had AEDs," she said. "In addition, Palisade Lions Club donated an AED to Taylor Elementary and Mt. Garfield Middle School. The Kiwanis of Grand Junction donated an AED to R-5."Other schools outside of District 51 to receive AEDs through the recent effort included: Caprock Academy, Cedaredge Elementary and Cedaredge Middle/High School, Crawford, DeBeque Elementary and DeBeque High School, Holy Family Elementary, Hotchkiss Elementary and Hotchkiss High School, Olathe Elementary and Olathe Middle/High School, Paonia Elementary and Paonia Junior/Senior High School, and Plateau Valley Schools."Community Hospital is committed to improving the health of our community, and we are so excited to be able to provide AEDs to the school district," Community Hospital President and CEO Chris Thomas said.Both Edson and Mistry hope to continue their fundraising efforts to purchase even more AEDs for schools, especially for high-school sports."The second phase (of the project) will include more awareness, more fundraising, more AEDs, and more kids safe," Mistry said. "I think we've just scratched the surface."Besides raising additional funds to purchase and train for AED use in schools, Edson and Mistry both said they hope to join with other area entities (like the City of Grand Junction)."We would like to have AEDs in all City buildings and in police cars," Mistry said.Another component of this public-service outreach project would be to educate other communities on a state or even a national level."We are so passionate about this ongoing project," Edson said, "and (we) would love to share it with others in the hope that other communities would be able to take the same idea and implement them in their own communities."
Edson and Mistry met last April because of "a mutual passion for preventing sudden cardiac death," Mistry said.Edson is the president of ARVD Heart for Hope, a local nonprofit founded in 2010 to raise awareness for ARVD heart disease (otherwise known as Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia, or an irregular heartbeat). Edson's daughter, Lindsey Beechwood Hoffner, was diagnosed with ARVD in 2006. A few weeks after her diagnosis, Lindsey received an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD), along with medications, to lessen the risk of sudden cardiac death and to correct her heart rhythms."It's saved her life at least once," Edson said.According to information provided by ARVD Heart for Hope, "ARVD causes muscle cells in the lower right heart chamber to be replaced with fat and fibrous scar tissue. The fatty and fibrous tissue interferes with the flow of electrical signals, resulting in abnormal heart rhythms, rapid heartbeats, and sometimes sudden cardiac death."Mistry, a primary care team physician, is also very passionate about preventing sudden cardiac death through his work. Besides treating patients at Western Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Grand Junction, he also works with Colorado Mesa University, the Grand Junction Rockies Pioneer League baseball team, and the USA Swim Team. According to Mistry, he strongly believes in early, preventative screenings and tests to identify athletes with heart abnormalities. All high-school athletes must undergo a physical and submit a medical history to participate, but Mistry said more in-depth screenings could help prevent sudden cardiac death in young people. EKGs (a test associated with the electrical activity of a heart) and echocardiograms (otherwise known as a sonogram of the heart) are two tools Mistry would like to see mandated for athletes of all ages during screenings, though it's not a current requirement (unless abnormalities are present).A local echocardiogram technologist, Terri Schroder, has a "unique ability" to successfully screen both children and adults for congenital heart abnormalities, Mistry added. She works with Community Hospital.For more information about ARVD Heart for Hope or to donate, visit www.arvdheart.org.