Your gentle touch, your tender care. A smile as bright as sunshine; a heart of no compare.
A spirit that will glow forever, in the memories that we share.

Monday, September 24, 2012

This Video May Help You Save A Life.

Visit to see what little it takes to save a life

So what exactly happens when Sudden Cardiac Arrest strikes?  And what can you do? 

In a perfect world, an AED is never more than 2 minutes (running distance) away from a victim.  Even so, compression-only CPR alone can prevent a person from dying or becoming severely brain-damaged when his or her heart stops suddenly. 

This Save-A-Life simulator is a video that prompts you to on-the-spot action as if you were a bystander.  Having been in this situation before, I can't stress enough the fact that this (SCA) could happen to anyone, anytime, any day.  Going through the steps of this simulator can give you a very real picture of what happens when someone's heart stops, and the questions embedded at key points during the event prompt you to think:  What would I do?  And what should I do? 

Please pay special attention to the "snoring" sound the victim makes.  Not many people recognize that this sound is an indicator that the heart has suddenly stopped beating.

If I could change one thing about the video, it would be that the chest compressions given during CPR need to be much, much harder.  I do realize, however, that the "victim" is role-playing, and that deep compressions could be harmful to a live person, but I've also come to learn that a lot of people are afraid of hurting a victim during CPR.  Yes, you may break a rib or two on the victim.  But ribs heal.  Death doesn't. 

After watching, check out The American Red Cross to find out where you can become AED/CPR certified.  Take one of these short, inexpensive classes one night.  You won't regret it.

Click on this link or on the caption above to start the simulator video.  Watch it, share it, and if the situation ever calls, don't be one of those dumb-struck bystanders in the background.  Spring to action and save a life. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

September 4th, 2012: A Survivor

This news just came down the pike from Parent Heart Watch... while we were observing a solemn second "annniversary" of Aidan's passing and staking balloons in places where AEDs will be placed, a teen in Florida went into sudden cardiac arrest... and LIVED!  It's uplifting to know that another family will be forever marking September 4th now, but as a day of thanks for another chance at living.  We need more of these success stories-- which means more AEDs.  Edited later today:  we learned that the SCA event happened July 30th.  Nonetheless, we're thrilled there's another survivor, particularly in that his life was saved because of the efforts of some wonderful people we've come to know...

The AED that saved this child had been donated by friends of ours from Parent Heart Watch.  Andy and Martha-Lopez Anderson began the Saving Young Hearts organization after the sudden cardiac death of their 10-year-old son, Sean.  Sean was casually rollerblading in the park when he collapsed suddenly.  Martha and I have talked many times about the similarities between the way Sean and Aidan both suddenly, without signs, symptoms, or warnings, become victims of SCA.  The Andersons, like Steve and I, have explored so many avenues in searching for answers as to why this happened to our boys, and they still, eight years later, have none.

The first time Martha told me the story of "that day," I pictured Sean rollerblading along the narrow paved paths that carve out the edges of the many playing fields in our East Brandywine Township park.   Which is silly, because the Andersons live in Florida.  But that's what I used as my frame of reference, and I've often wondered what would have been the outcome if Sean's park had had an AED available in February 2004.  I think about him a lot as Steve and I near our goals of installing AEDs in our town park.  Would Sean have been a survivor, too?

Someday, we hope, every park and public property will be equipped with AEDs.  And when Steve and I dream about what it would take to protect all kids, all the time, from SCA, every home would have one, too, as regularly part of nuts-and-bolts safety gear as smoke detectors.

From yesterday's event in Florida and other AED success stories, dreams are starting to come true. 

For EPSN's coverage of this story and more regarding SCA, click here.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Two Years Later: 9/4/2012

One of four bunches of balloons that mark where the AEDs will be installed at East Brandywine Township Park

Steve and I search constantly for silver linings.  And when they're hard to find, we sometimes create our own.

So, this morning, joined by some family members and dear friends, we staked visible markers of the positive change our loss is effecting.  Because of the combined efforts of all of our 5K for Aidan J. supporters and volunteers, Cardiac Science, the East Brandywine Youth Athletics Association, and East Brandywine Township supervisory board, Steve and I are proud to announce the impending installation of 6 AEDs in three of our local parks where kids and teens play recreational sports.  The purchase order has been signed, and Cardiac Science is in the process of completing the order so that the machines are in place in the next few weeks-- the beginning of fall soccer season for EBYA.  When the third pavilion is built later this year down by the new baseball field of the township park, a 7th AED will be housed there. 

The most astonishing part?  EBYA is footing the bill for the six machines.  Our 5K funds need only contribute to the climate-controlled housings that need to be built on the pavilions for the three machines that will be fully accessible to all park users. 

In a crazy act of generosity that goes above and beyond the super-special pricing that they're offering EBYA on these machines, Chip Miller and Cardiac Science are donating a machine as well, which we intend to place within a school that Aidan attended.

Furthermore, the results of Molly and Nate Unger's "Mt. Whitney in a Day" fundraiser are providing 4 additional AEDs for our area, one of which will be installed at their elementary school, East Ward.  (Molly is a former preschool classmate and friend of Aidan's).  While all schools in Downingtown are equipped with at least one AED, they are all what our AED specialist calls, "end of life," being more than a decade old, and "belong in the Smithsonian."  They were placed in the PA district schools as a result of the Greg Moyer Fund as a result of the tobacco settlements in 2001 and 2002.  Think about having a 12-year-old cell phone; how much would your ability to communicate be limited?  Quite the same for this piece of life-saving equipment, which is the reason why Steve and I will be furthering our efforts in the school district after we do our best to make sure all of the area youth rec leagues have at least one AED at every playing field and court. 

This adds up to 12 AEDs that will soon be placed in our local area as a result of Aidan's passing.  We began what we hope to be an annual tradition today by setting bunches of balloons (7 balloons per bunch, as was Aidan's age when he died) at each of the sites of the AEDs purchased as a result of the efforts of our community and the 5K event:

(1) at East Ward Elementary School
(4) at East Brandywine Township Park this fall; (1) more will be added when 3rd pavilion is built
(1) at Spatola Field (EBYA T-ball home park)
(1) at Hopewell (EBYA basketball)

Obviously, most readers are doing the math here, and are figuring out that we have additional machines at our disposal to donate at the moment.  This is beyond our most hopeful dreams for this effort, and we've only just initiated it a few months ago!  Having met and talked at length with several families from Parent Heart Watch, our sponsoring organization, we were told to expect a long period of back-and-forth, rounds of meetings, and even fighting for justification to install AEDs in our community.  We are absolutely blown away by the proactive, greatly responsible, ahead-of-the-curve reaction we're receiving from the people who will be helping us get the job done. 

Of course, we hope they never have to be used.  But having had the "education we never wanted" these past two years, Steve and I are greatly aware that, in a school district of 11,000 children, the odds of a Downingtown youth suffering a cardiac arrest aren't slim. 

But, when it happens, we won't be known as the community in which a child died from SCA.  We'll be the community that was prepared to successfully manage a sudden cardiac arrest, and some other family or families will be able to see their child(ren) graduate high school, give young adulthood the old college try, and realize the possibilities that have been building for a lifetime. 

Thank you for this opportunity to keep the kids in our community safe, Aidan.  When we see seven red balloons, we think of your brilliant smile, and we now know they mark the spot of smart machines that can save other victims of SCA.  We love you, baby. 

Mommy and Dad

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Simple Change in CPR Procedures is Saving Lives

Not long ago, the American Heart Association changed it's recommendations regarding the administration of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).  Are you updated?  Read here for more info on how the change is helping people save victims of SCA:

Today's News-Herald - Serving Lake Havasu City & The Lower Colorado River Area

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Aidan Stops Traffic in PA

On a highway somewhere in the Harrisburg area

As part of a national campaign to raise awareness of Sudden Cardiac Arrest in youth,  Parent Heart Watch is posting pictures of kids who have died from or survived SCA throughout the country.  Aidan appears on three of these roadside billboards in the Harrisburg area.

Please support PHW, if you haven't already through our 5K efforts.  This is a tremendous campaign to spread the word of SCA in youth to the general population.  We're still accepting contributions online and via mail at 5K for Aidan J./PHW, P.O. Box 72258, Thorndale, PA  19320. 

And the testament to the tremendous courage of the PHW community to put our kids out there in the hopes that parents everywhere start making changes in their families and communities when it comes to keeping their kids' hearts safe.

Map of Aidan's 3 billboard locations

Monday, July 9, 2012

PA in the News: The First Step in Making SCA a Household Term

The Silva family was there! 
Pictured with State Rep. Mike Vereb (left) and Gov. Tom Corbett

Simon's Fund and Norristown's Representative Mike Vereb started it, and many PA SCA families, along with the national Parent Heart Watch organization, can claim some of the high-fives from the results of their efforts.

On May 30th, Pennsylvania became the FIRST STATE to require mass education among coaches, athletes, and their families regarding the warning signs of Sudden Cardiac Arrest.  While many cases of SCA occur without warning, as with Aidan, equally as many happen after warning signs have been ignored.

Read here to learn more about what's happening in our state-- and will soon be coming to yours!

Will the U.S. Catch Up to European and Olympics Standards (in protecting young hearts)?

Are we on the verge of adding a 10-minute heart screening to routine athlete health screenings?  This article from the medical community sheds some interesting light...

Europe does it.  The Olympics standards require it.  Why don't we???

Postnote:  Italy started requiring heart screenings as part of the routine athletic screening in the 1990s.  Since then, deaths among athletes due to Sudden Cardiac Arrest have decreased 89%.  Eighty-nine percent.  Quote me on that; I'm too lazy to list the citation right now, but I can dig it up (anyone can Google it)-- crazy, right?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

We're moving forward!!!

On June 18th Christy and I met with the East Brandywine Youth Association (EBYA) General Board and made our pitch to try to get AEDs in place for our local sports league.  The board met our presentation with great enthusiasm and they are interested in purchasing AEDs hopefully starting in the upcoming fall season! 

Last night I met with the East Brandywine Township Parks and Recreation Board and not only are they supportive of our efforts, they would like to see the AEDs externally mounted so that all residents can have access to them!  Needless to say, Christy and I are thrilled at the progress here in East Brandywine.  Lots of logistics still need to be worked out, but there is a common purpose among all involved and we are so happy to live in a community that wants to keep its youngest residents safe.  As more details unfold we'll post again.  Until then, Happy Independence Day!  Stay safe.  Love to all!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Chick-Fil-A Fundraiser Night for 5K for Aidan J. a TOTAL SUCCESS!

Devin does his part to honor his big brother

THANK YOU TO EVERYONE who came to Chick-Fil-A tonight for dinner (or drove thru)! We were able to meet our fundraising goal!!! Thank you for making time in your busy schedules to be a part of our efforts! YOU'RE THE BEST!!!

Brandon spins the coupon wheel for some good deals on tasty food
Karyn and Kelly convince passerby to stop on in

This one caused me pause... (sigh).

Doctors warn of sudden cardiac arrest in children

It looks like SCA may be FINALLY gaining some traction in the medical field... please click the link to view this article, published 5/22/12:

Doctors warn of sudden cardiac arrest in children

Friday, May 25, 2012

Fennville Honors Wes Leonard


Are you one of the few people who hasn't heard about Wes Leonard, the 16-year-old basketball star who collapsed at died on the court last March from Sudden Cardiac Arrest?  His parents have raised funds to provide 50 AEDs to Michigan schools to date, and counting.  But, his mom says, schools should already have had them.  

Read the article about today's graduation of Wes' high school class by clicking here.

Watch the ESPN video tribute to Wes by clicking here.

I hope Devin and Mitchell can meet one day. 

Janet’s Law,’ requiring AEDs in all NJ schools, could get a vote this Thursday - New Jersey Hills Newspaper: Echoes Sentinel News

New Jersey may soon be requiring AEDs in all schools.  Currently, the only facilities in PA that are required by law to have AEDs are nursing homes.  Let's get on board, PA!!!  Our kids deserve to be protected!!!

Janet’s Law,’ requiring AEDs in all schools, could get a vote this Thursday - New Jersey Hills Newspaper: Echoes Sentinel News: WARREN TWP. – Janet’s law, which requires New Jersey schools to be equipped with an automated external defibrillator (AED), could be voted on…

5K for Aidan J honors Howard’s biggest fan -

Thank you, Ryan Lawrence, for writing a wonderful article about Aidan and Ryan Howard, and for helping us spread word about our upcoming 2nd Annual 5K for Aidan J. in the Delaware County Times newspaper! 

5K for Aidan J honors Howard’s biggest fan -

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

SCA Prevention Act Has Been Signed!

To save one life is as if to save the world  - The Talmud

We have some great news to announce!  The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act is being signed into PA law on May 30th!  This act would require the education of coaches, trainers, student athletes, and parents about the symptoms of SCA prior to participating in athletics. In addition, it ensures that children who show the symptoms of SCA prior to, during, or after an athletic activity are properly screened by a medical professional before being allowed to return to athletic activities.  This is a HUGE step in our goals to protect our children from SCA.  Working with Simon's Fund, Pennsylvania State Representative, Mike Vereb, introduced the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act before the House of Representatives. This accomplishment is truly the reflection of many hands working together.  On February 14th, surviving children of Sudden Cardiac Arrest, along with families who lost their child, visited Harrisburg delivering cookies to members of the House Education committee and urged them to pass this bill.  Little 6-year old Devin shared his heartbreaking story of losing his best friend and brother Aidan to SCA directly with staff members.  Downingtown's own State Senator Andy Dinniman, as Minority Chairman of the Education Committee, followed through on the personal resolution he presented the Silva Family with at the First 5K last June and personally helped to ensure the success of this bill.  We are so thrilled with this success and it brings us ever closer to the goal of having every child receive EKG screenings along with their hearing and vision well visits and ensuring every school and athletic association in Pennsylvania has an AED device on the premise.

Thank you, Kelly Hagelauer, for writing this post.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Full Circle

I grew up in Rhinebeck. I ran my fastest mile in 8th grade on the track that Kaitlin was playing softball on when she collapsed. Who'd have thought that things would come full circle in this way? 
Aidan used to call the Hudson River "Mommy's River" when we visited Rhinebeck in August to go to the Dutchess County Fair. We were at the fair three weeks before he died. Crazy.

Read this article about the continued efforts of three NY families: parents of a survivor, parents of two victims.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

500 More Young Hearts to be Screened: April 14th

Five hundred more hearts are registered to be screened in Downingtown this April! This time, we're focusing on the high school athletes at DHS West, DHS East, and Bishop Shanahan High School. Most youth who have a Sudden Cardiac Arrest event are teens and young adults living with undetected structural and rhythmic abnormalities that present during athletic activity. Thank you, Simon's Fund and A.I. DuPont cardiologists, for joining us again to provide this opportunity! If you'd like to see more screenings take place in our area, support the 5K for Aidan J. Run/Walk event (June 9, 2012). While we rely on the generosity of the medical personnel involved, each screening event costs Simon's Fund anywhere from $2,500 to $12,000. Run/walk for kids' hearts!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"The" Three-Run Homer

Just going through my computer files, trying to organize last year's 5K folders as we prepare for the second annual-- June 9th-- and came across this, broadcast just hours after the incredible tribute to Aidan by his classmates and friends at Brandywine Wallace Elementary... (click to view 1.5min video)

So cool.  A high-five from Heaven for your recovery and a world championship season, Ryan!

ps-- The Silvas will be cheering the LOUDEST OF ALL.  


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Status Update

It's been awhile since the last entry, but let me be frank:  We're struggling here.

Holidays.  Birthdays.  Traditions.  Those, we manage.  We can plan our escapes, or we can choose to go head first through them and count the minutes until midnight.  Which, literally, we do.

But it's those unforeseen things, the 'little' things, that pop up here and there just as we feel we're gaining a good momentum, that are debilitating.  A good friend lends me a movie, hoping to help me take my mind off things and knowing I adore Reese Witherspoon, and in the first ten minutes of the flick, the older of two brothers dies in a tragic accident.  He, tall and thin and about ten years old, had chided and guided his younger, tanned, chunky little brother with love and protection until the out-of-the-blue table saw accident occurred.  No foreboding music, no dark scenes to warn me.  And then, at his bedside, the younger brother watched as the older took his last breath, screaming to the adults, "Do something!'  It's all too familiar.

The AED that we've been working for months on getting for our family was due last week.  After prepping myself for what I thought might be a bit of an emotionally tough moment, and that moment not arriving, I tried to get back to the numb state of 'fine' for a few days.  Today, as I'm on an upward climb out of my dark self, as the sun is shining and the temps are warmer than they've been in weeks and I'm feeling good about finally exercising, the Fed-Ex truck shows up.  I'm thankful, I'm feeling security, and at the same time, my heart squeezes itself into a knot the size of an avocado pit all over again.  If.  Only.  This one, dumb little machine could've shared a shelf with our kitchen fire extinguisher without giving up so much as a couple of boxes of Cheez-Its in our pantry closet.

I don't mean dumb dumb.  The little contraption is actually smarter than the smartest doctors in reading the rhythmic waves of a heart's electrical system.  It even knows when to not fire a signal if it's accidentally administered.  I just mean dumb as in the stupid irony of it all, I guess.

The kicker-- a woman I met recently who heard about Aidan said to me, "How did you get through that?  I just can't imagine..."  How did we get through it?  Are we supposed to be done getting through it by this point?  Is that what the expectation is? 

There was a big thing this past month, too, that Steve and I had agreed to, had prepared for, and had actually acknowledged was something we needed to do, but what's blindsided us has been the aftermath, the return to reality.  The annual Parent Heart Watch convention was held on MLK weekend in New Orleans this year, and for the first time, we went.  We met people there just like us-- normal, smiling with their mouths but not so much with their eyes, sometimes even standing next to their surviving children, most of whom are active in their communities in creating awareness of Sudden Cardiac Arrest, conducting heart screenings, and trying to change policy and raise funds to have more AEDs installed in public places.  Steve and I were very, very inspired.  Aidan's picture was on a poster and was one of about sixty children and young adults whose posters were placed in a circle all around the conference room.  Each time we glanced at his bright, sweet face, a pang of pain would punch our hearts.  But as the weekend wore on and we got to know the other families and through them, their amazing kids (and I mean amazing; story after story about how each was unusually kind, helpful, and considerate of others) became part of our new "family," as we realized that Aidan is now part of this group of lost children.  And as we left that Sunday, walking by his picture one last time, we felt a sense of peace, glad to know that he has buddies in this group, and that they, too, are great, great kids just like him.  I like to imagine him playing a pick-up game of baseball with the boys (many of them are older) and acting goofy around the girls (all of them are beautiful) to try and win their affections.

And Steve and I each connected with that one "someone" who we'd hoped for as our "reason" for going to this thing, and it was as emotionally satiated as either of us has felt in months and months.  These people are absolutely, beyond any doubt, unbelievably amazing people.  You'll likely be hearing a lot about Eric and Louis and their parents in this blog, as we'll link you to the incredible work that is being done by their families to prevent SCA from claiming another child.

But none of us should have been there.  And after the many stories in which a child collapsed in Sudden Cardiac Arrest and either:  1) No AED was onsite, and CPR couldn't sustain the child until the EMTs arrived, or 2) AEDs were onsite, but they were locked up in the building while the child lay on the field, or 3) AEDs were onsite, but no one thought to use them because they didn't recognize the signs of SCA and thought the child was having a seizure (this happened at a lifeguard training, mind you).  Other stories about AEDs that had dead batteries or bystanders being afraid of being sued and not helping the victim added to our collective sense of loss and frustration.  It's just so senseless.  We're trained in elementary school First Aid classes how to splint a broken bone with a folded magazine and a ripped t-shirt; why aren't we all trained in how to save a heart in cardiac arrest?  You have to go looking for a magazine.  Our fists, the machines that administer the most basic life-saving care and can significantly increase a victim's chance of survival while help arrives, are attached to our bodies.

Aidan's death has never made sense to us.  But what's more senseless is that we (as a country) have the technology (AED and EKG machines), we have the ability to conduct mass trainings and education, we have the evidence that SCA claims the lives of 16 kids a day, and we're not implementing this knowledge or these instruments.  It just doesn't add up.  How much more quickly would we move forward in changing policies and accessibility regarding AED and EKG accessibility and implementation if every parent in our country really thought about the very real possibility that SCA could strike his or her child?

Coming home from the debauchery of Bourbon Street (which we just weren't in the mood to join in) was tough.  We even left the conference early, flew first class, and had that Monday off to recover, but having to hit the road running again has been tough.  I think that, in getting to see how some families are managing, and some are not, it's shifted my perspective on this whole "gotta get up in the morning...Quentin and Devin keep us going...being busy will help us get through" thing.  I do have a choice, I'm realizing.  I don't have to be as brave.  I'm considering it.  I just fear the consequences.

So now, with the short days, the gray skies, and the busy tag-team schedules that winter always brings to the Silva household, it's been hard for us to re-acclimate.  It feels like we've been knocked off our axis a bit these past few weeks, and undoubtedly, our orbit is forever changed, even if just a little bit.  But we all remember from our eighth grade Science lessons how a slight change in the elliptical patterns of spinning, drifting planetary bodies can have monumental impact by one day  causing a sudden, unpredicted, catastrophic event.

Huh.  We studied 'irony' in eighth grade, too.  Now I get it, Mrs. Cunningham.  Now, I get it.