To the Editor:
It’s been 10 years since I handed my healthy, happy, amazing son some cash in the high school parking lot so he could go out to eat with his friends after football practice.
He said, “Thanks, momma, I love you.” I told him I loved him back. And those were the last words we spoke.
Jake was 17 years old when he died of sudden cardiac arrest after collapsing during a play at practice. He’d passed every sport and school physical exam. We had no family heart history that we knew of. He was alive and thriving one minute, and then he was gone. My son did not come home from school that day.
While sudden cardiac death (SCA) is the leading cause of death in the U.S., taking the lives of 356,000 people annually, what most people don’t know is that SCA is the number one killer of student-athletes and the leading cause of death on school campuses.
According to Parent Heart Watch, a national voice solely dedicated to protecting youth from sudden cardiac arrest and preventable sudden cardiac death, the only way to restart a heart in cardiac arrest is by using an automated external defibrillator (AED). Having AEDs wherever youth congregate that are easily accessible and ready to use in the event of an emergency is paramount to saving lives.
Indiana Senate Bill 369, “Jake’s Law,” would ensure operating AEDs are present at athletic facilities. Anyone overseeing or supervising an activity at the facility would be informed of the location of the AED by school or event personnel. The bill also would ensure every venue has a specific emergency action plan when sudden cardiac arrest occurs.
This legislation passed the Senate unanimously last year and this year. It is scheduled for a hearing in the House this week. Unlike so many issues right now that divide us along political lines, this one has little opposition, and it carries minimal cost.
Losing a child is every parent’s nightmare. Jake would be 27 this year. In the terminal skip of a heartbeat, the life he would have lived—the person he could have become— turned into a decade of “what ifs” and “could have beens” for those he left behind.
I know installing AEDs might not save every young athlete who suffers sudden cardiac arrest at school, but saving just one life—knowing that another family could be spared the pain we have endured—would make this fight worth it. The ripple effects from such a tragedy spreads far beyond what we realize. Please join me in supporting Senate Bill 369 “Jake’s Law” this session.