I'm not one to believe that Aidan is a little angel, smiling down on me from the heavens with a harp in his hands and wings at his back, but if ever there were a moment in these last fifteen months where I felt my little man's spirit jumping up and down and high-fiving me the way he did the few times I ran 5Ks, it was this past Saturday. On Saturday, Steve and I teamed up with the Simon's Fund organization from Montgomery County to screen kids' hearts. We enlisted the medical expertise of a volunteer staff of A.I. DuPont cardiologists and technicians and nurses from Nemours, as well as numerous school and hospital nurses from the community, National Honors Society students from Downingtown West HS, generous DHSW administrative and custodial staff, and a partridge and a pear tree as we welcomed nearly 300 children and teenagers to have their hearts checked, free of charge, in time for a little peace of mind for the holidays.
State Senator Andy Dinniman, who in June at our 5K presented us with a Resolution for Sudden Cardiac Arrest awareness, stopped by. With his dog, of course, who did some pretty cool tricks for us. U.S. Congressman Jim Gerlach, also a participant in the 5K for Aidan J. events this year, came to check out the screening event and offer us solid backing on our efforts to create a national database of children who have died from SCA. DHS West Principal Tom Mulvey gave us pats on the back and nods of encouragement as he surveyed the remarkable jobs his NHS students were doing to ensure the smooth runnings of the event. And somewhere along the line, Quentin popped in to give us a tight, drooly squeeze and remind us that Hey, Mom and Dad, Aidan's loving this.
I don't have any pictures yet. I kind of purposely didn't pack the camera, wanting the day to play out as it would naturally be, without any staging or put-on-a-happy-face-ing for the camera, just letting it roll as it would. I'm glad for the photos that were taken, however, and I'll pass them along as soon as I can wrestle the photographers for them.
But I'll tell you, it was a good day. Oh, I know there were moments, when a few families were referred for followup echocardiograms (ours being one-- can you believe it? It was Devin, and something popped up, but it's minor and we're okay). Fewer families still were counseled by the cardiologists and encouraged to pursue follow up testing for possible abnormalities that may or may not have been life-threatening; the data isn't yet in, and when it does come through, I'm not sure that it will be that specific. At any rate, 90% of people left the building breathing a little easier, feeling more secure that their children's hearts were free of structural or arrhythmic abnormalities (EKGs pick up about 80% of these at any given time). And 9% had a bit of a scare when they were led to the darkened room in which the echocardiogram equipment was encamped, to emerge a half hour later with a sigh of relief regarding a false positive or a bit of an education concerning a perfectly un-scary abnormality (like us). And 1%, 2 or 3, left the day a bit rocked, as something turned up, and more testing was encouraged. But, armed with some information, a personal connection to some of the best doctors in the country, and the reassurance that "at least we found out, and we can do something about it," the families for whom the 'worst case scenario' came true are sure to realize: They'll be okay. Because of the knowledge, and because they can take action, their child will not die of Sudden Cardiac Arrest.
It's late at night for people with terrible head colds at present moment, so I won't launch into the emotional diatribe I was prepared to offer about how Saturday's event allowed me to feel more like Aidan's mother than I have at any moment in the last fifteen months, as his old friends, classmates, and teammates poured in. I won't even tell you in detail about how I felt so 'maternal' toward the many, many kids that walked in that I'd never even seen before in my life. I'll just leave you with the sentiment that, while I don't believe in much in the way of angels, my Aidan was cheering me on that day. "Alright, Mom!" I can imagine him saying, "Another one! You saved another one! Awesome!" I laugh as I think about this, the throw-back-my-head-and-let-it-all-out kind of laughter. Yes, Aidan, we did, but only because we love you so much are we compelled to help other children. We love you, my sweetie, so very, very much. We'll do whatever more we can to make sure you know that."