State senator proposes new bill
A bill creating additional opportunities for sudden cardiac arrest screenings for youths is working its way through the California Legislature — and garnering bipartisan support.
From Sen. Brian W. Jones, R-Santee, SB 1135 would establish a three-year pilot program open to any public or private school in the state. The California Department of Education would contract with a nonprofit that would run sudden cardiac arrest screenings and provide data to the state at the end of the program.
The screening would be conducted on students from grades 5-12 and is meant to mitigate the chances of student-athletes dying or becoming seriously injured because of an undiagnosed or undetected heart condition.
“Sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death of student-athletes with an estimated 23,000 children under 18 lost each year in the U.S.,” Sen. Jones said. “SB 1135 establishes a pilot program to screen children for SCA conveniently in their school setting. These screenings deliver a potentially life-saving service and give access to critical care before tragedy strikes.”
SCA is the abrupt loss of heart function, usually due to an issue with the heart’s electrical system that disrupts the pumping and flow of blood throughout the body. It is not the same as a heart attack.
Without immediate treatment, including CPR and the use of an automated external defibrillator, SCA will most likely result in death.
SCA generally occurs without warning, but some earlier symptoms can include chest discomfort, heart palpitations, shortness of breath or weakness, according to the Mayo Clinic.
A common cause of SCA is a disturbance in the heart rhythm, or ventricular fibrillation, which can be detected through screenings with the use of an electrocardiogram.
According to Sen. Jones, one in every 300 children has an undetected heart condition.
SCA is the leading cause of death on school campuses and the No. 1 killer of student-athletes, according to a San Diego County organization committed to providing screenings.
In 2009, Eric Paredes, a student-athlete at Steele Canyon High School in Spring Valley, was preparing to go on a family vacation. But when his father came home, he found his son collapsed on the kitchen floor. At just 15 years old, Eric Paredes died from sudden cardiac arrest due to an undiagnosed heart condition.
His parents started the Eric Paredes Save a Life Foundation to honor their son and commit to preventing other families from experiencing this tragedy by providing screenings.
“The underpinning of this initiative is the fact that about half of youth stricken by SCA had no warning signs or family risk factors that would’ve triggered diagnostic follow-up to identify their heart condition before tragedy struck,” Rhina Paredes-Greeson and Hector Paredes, co-founders of the foundation, said. “The pilot is meant to provide a life-saving service to California youth while collecting the data necessary to continue to evolve the standard of care.”
Thus far, the Eric Paredes Save a Life Foundation has given nearly 35,000 screenings to teenagers, discovering 543 cardiac abnormalities. Of those, 239 teens have been identified as at risk for SCA.
Other supporters of the bill include the Association of California Healthcare Districts, Avive Solutions Inc., Grossmont Healthcare District, Heartfelt Help Foundation, Heartshield Project, Just1mike, Justin Carr Wants World Peace Foundation, Kyle J. Taylor Foundation, Madison Middle School, Scripps Health, Sidelined USA, Southwest Sports Wellness Foundation, Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndromes Foundation, Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation and Via Heart Project.
Sen. Pat Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, is the principal co-author of the bill. It has received bipartisan support and recently passed out of the Senate Education Committee. It now heads to the Appropriations Committee.