Aidan’s Heart Foundation is Empowering our Youth with Lifesaving Knowledge and Skills

by | Mar 15, 2022

After a two-year dormancy for most of their programs due to the pandemic, Aidan’s Heart Foundation (AHF) was emboldened that events were held locally last November, December, and lanuary all with a purpose to revive its mission. It is the commitment of AHF to provide awareness and protection for our youth by education, prevention and quick responses to Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA), which is a life-threatening emergency that occurs when a heart stops beating.

An estimated 2,000 – 9,000 young people suffer a sudden cardiac event each year. It is the number one cause of death of young athletes and usually happens without any warning signs or symptoms.

In keeping the momentum going on December 16th, Coatesville High School hosted a “Red Out” during their basketball game against Downingtown West. Aidan’s Heart Foundation red shirts were handed out to the student sections and the players from West wore blue shirts and Coatesville wore black to represent their team colors. On January 20th, Downingtown West, where Aidan would have graduated high school this year, planned to support another “Red Out” game increasing more awareness about SCA in our community.

East Brandywine Township resident Christy Silva is the Co-Founder and President of Aidan’s Heart Foundation that was formed shortly after her gentle, oldest son, Aidan, died unexpectedly at age seven. The cause was determined to be an unexplained SCA. In an effort to avert more tragedies and loss of children’s lives, Christy, AHF’s Board, volunteers and supporters execute three lifesaving programs throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania: AED (automatic external defibrillator) placement, CPR training, and youth heart screening events.

AHF was starting to think about bringing back their programming in July 2021, when a visiting player from West Catholic collapsed and died during a football scrimmage at Coatesville High School. The cause of death was SCA due to an undetected heart condition. Soon after, Christy met with Corrie Ortega, wife of the head football coach, and Brian Chenger, Director of Athletics and Activities for CASD.

“We put our heads together to figure out how we could help these boys and this community heal from that traumatic event and how we could use it as an opportunity to educate the athletic community about how to protect young hearts.”

After a football practice in mid-August, AHF trained all 70 football players to use CPR and AEDs and answered their questions. “It was an emotional event, but a healing event. They had their arms around each other and were cheering on each other. They took it for what it was meant to be.”

Brian invited AHF to come back to Coatesville High School again in November to teach more of their athletic teams in addition to holding their first free heart screening event since the pre-pandemic on November 12th. While conditions that can lead to SCA are preventable and treatable, they are usually only diagnosed with an EKG exam. Dr. Devyani Chowdhury, who has worked with AHF for years, brought her team from Cardiology Care for Children in Lancaster and screened 152 athletes. They found 11 that required follow-up with a cardiologist and two were significant. Christy shares a statistic that about 1 in every 300 high school athletes that are screened then require subsequent testing or treatments.

Related Article: Is Basketball a Leading Cause of Youth Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

AHF Back to Marsh Creek Sixth Grade Center in January 2022

Christy’s favorite thing that AHF does is the training at the Marsh Creek Sixth Grade Center held over several days in January.

“Maybe because I am a teacher and I have young children, but I really, really love seeing children become empowered and beyond just what we are able to teach and empower them with through the CPR and AED training. I really love how for the past six years, we’ve been able to bring back 8th graders who received their CPR certification to come to the MC6GC and they are the ones that facilitate the training.”

This year, the class of 8th graders from both DASD middle schools were unable to be certified in time due to Covid restrictions so high school students came back instead, “They remember being part of the 6th-grade presentation and training and they really wanted to come back and help their younger peers learn these lifesaving skills. It’s this community collaboration that is such empowerment for our youth. It is a place to connect and find purpose to use talents, gifts, strengths and skills to raise up a younger generation. These younger students want to take it seriously and they want to do it well because they want to impress the older students that they look up to. For me to watch it all happen…in that, I just find magic.”

Christy is excited that the “SK for Aidan J.” community fundraising event is confirmed to be held on June 18, 2022, in the Downingtown Borough after a two-year hiatus. “It’s good to be back in action!”

AHF Team with student volunteers and PE Teachers at Marsh Creek Sixth Grade Center

AHF Team with student volunteers and PE Teachers at Marsh Creek Sixth Grade Center