(08/27/12) - A silent killer will claim the lives of dozens of kids this year, often while they are playing sports. It's sudden cardiac death. It is a sad and frightening fact of life: standard sports physicals miss 96 percent of those at risk.
Just 10 days before her thirteenth birthday, Taylor Waltman collapsed during soccer practice.
"I remember she gave me a look, like I don't want to run this lap," her father, Dave, says.
Taylor died of sudden cardiac arrest, though her mother says she never showed any signs of trouble. "That night we all had to go up to the hospital. We were there all night. Worst night of our lives."
Like Taylor, not all kids at risk will have obvious symptoms, but Dr. Jane Crosson says there are things to watch out for, like family history. "So we always say, any sudden death under 35, have the immediate relatives screened for these genetic conditions that can cause sudden death."
Crosson, of Johns Hopkins Children's Center, says even unexplained car accidents or drowning - where a family member may have passed out before they passed away - need to be looked at. "In people that died swimming, 28 or 29 percent had a genetic abnormality that wasn't previously recognized."
Other red flags include: kids complaining of chest pain while exercising or playing, and fainting or passing out during an activity. While EKG's can detect about 60 percent of those at risk, Dr. Crosson says schools need defibrillators, to help the other 40 percent of kids who go undetected.
After the Waltman's had their family tested, they learned their younger daughter, Shelby also has a heart problem. "Of course we worry about her every day, but we just have faith in them that they can treat it."
If detected and treated early, kids with heart conditions can go on to lead normal lives. When it comes to automatic extended defibrillators - or AED's - every second counts. Survival rates after a cardiac event can drop 10 percent every minute without an AED.
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