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Editorial: From Heartbreaking Event, A Heartwarming Result

Young athlete dies of cardiac arrest

ONCE YOU hear Gwyneth’s story, it is impossible to forget it. On June 8, 2012, Gwyneth Griffin was running around the track with some classmates at A.G. Wright Middle School. The school year was winding down and she was about to turn 13. With her excellent grades and long list of activities, she was already building an impressive résumé. She was enjoying the heck out of being a kid.

Then, it happened. She collapsed on the track at the North Stafford school. Her friends immediately tried to get help. An ambulance was called. But it would be 10 minutes before an emergency crew arrived and CPR was initiated. She had no pulse and wasn’t breathing. After two months in the hospital, as her loved ones hoped for a miraculous recovery that never came, she was gone.

Gwyneth was a victim of sudden cardiac arrest, a syndrome that claims the lives of some 650,000 people in the United States each year.

In the wake of their devastating loss, Gwyneth’s parents, Joel and Jennifer Griffin, saw an opportunity. In 2013, the Griffins appealed to the Virginia General Assembly for legislation that would require teachers and graduating high school seniors in Virginia to have received training in CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It would also encourage every school division across the state to acquire an AED, or automatic external defibrillator, for each of its schools.

It was called Gwyneth’s Law, and it easily passed in both Assembly chambers and was signed into law by Gov. Bob McDonnell.

But the Griffins’ work didn’t stop there. They established the Gwyneth’s Law Foundation, which has given birth to the Gwyneth’s Gift Foundation. Now, as part of a group that included county, hospital and fire and rescue officials in Stafford, they have brought PulsePoint to their home county.

PulsePoint is a smartphone application that alerts subscribers when someone is suffering cardiac arrest. Subscribers can include not just emergency medical personnel, but anyone who has had CPR training. When a 911 dispatcher receives word that someone’s heart has stopped beating, a PulsePoint alert is immediately issued. The app also provides information on where the nearest accessible defibrillator is located.

The idea is to get help to the affected person as soon as possible. That’s critical when a couple of minutes can make the difference between life and death, or between brain damage and a full recovery. Stafford became the fourth locality in Virginia to get on board with the system, and we would urge all others across the Fredericksburg area to follow suit. The app is being used in more than 2,000 communities in 30 states across the country.

There is nothing more tragic than a life lost that could have been saved had help been available sooner.

In Stafford, charitable events sponsored by the Stafford Hospital Foundation have raised $50,000 to buy the app. It’s a worthwhile cause if there ever was one.

It is especially appropriate that news of PulsePoint emerges in February, which is National Heart Month. The observance draws attention to the fact that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Each year, it is responsible for one in four deaths across the country.

National Heart Month also serves as a reminder that people can give themselves a healthier heart by choosing the right foods, getting regular exercise, watching their weight, limiting alcohol intake and, of course, quitting tobacco.

An annual wellness visit to your doctor can help detect heart issues early and possibly save your life. You can also receive heart-health advice, as well as information about heart-attack warning signs.

Gwyneth’s case proves that heart issues can and do turn up in the least likely candidates, and often with little warning. With the help of her parents, lawmakers and health advocates everywhere, there’s no telling how many lives Gwyneth has already saved. It is a legacy of which she would be justly proud.

Story Credit: http://www.fredericksburg.com/opinion/editorials/editorial-from-heartbreaking-event-a-heartwarming-result/article_62ac7c60-9def-5bb3-af1f-01779a7f5517.html