Sudden Cardiac Arrest Strikes Another Student in Central Pa.

Daron Godbee

An eighth-grader at the Milton Hershey School in Dauphin County has died after sudden cardiac arrest, becoming the second student in the Harrisburg area within two weeks to die of the syndrome.

Daron Lewis Godbee, 13, was stricken at school, according to his obituary. He was a native of the Hershey area and involved in activities including cross country, track, swimming, band and choir.

“We are devastated over the death of a beloved member of the Milton Hershey School community,” the school said in a statement.

The school said his family donated his organs to the Gift of Life program to be given to one or more people in need of organ transplant.

“Daron’s kind and giving spirit will live on through the lives of others … He will be deeply missed by friends, teachers, houseparents, coaches, and all who knew him,” the school said. Milton Hershey, a boarding school for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, has about 2,100 students in grades pre-k through high school.

Jonathan Kuhn, 16, a student and basketball player at Big Spring High School, died a few days after being stricken with sudden cardiac arrest on Feb. 28.

Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. It strikes about 360,000 people per year in the United States, with about ninety percent of them dying, according to the American Heart Association.

The association has estimated that about 7,000 people 18 or younger per year are stricken with sudden cardiac arrest, with only about 11 percent surviving.

It’s often caused by a previously unknown heart ailment; people often show no symptoms before being stricken. In many cases, such ailments can only be detected through electrocardiogram, which isn’t part of normal checkups and physicals for young people. However, heart problems among relatives are known as a risk factor.

Such deaths in previously healthy children, often athletes, are especially heart-breaking and often receive news coverage.

While it is considered a public health issue worthy of detection and prevention efforts, medical experts consider sudden cardiac death to be rare, and it’s not among the leading causes of death among young people.

Private organizations often raise money, promote and provide electrocardiograms for young people.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the top three causes of death for children from five to 14 are accidents, cancer and suicide.

Milton Hershey said it’s providing psychological care and counseling for students and staff. A memorial service will be held Sunday at the school. Godbee’s family said, rather than sending flowers, people should donate to a favorite charity or to Cocoa Packs Inc., P.O. Box 613, Hershey, Pa., 17033.

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