by Kristy Brindley

“Losing a child, no matter what the age, makes your heart break in pieces you never knew existed.”

 

This quote became our reality the summer of 2016 when the precious life of our youngest son was stolen in an instant to the silent killer of sudden cardiac arrest.

 

Michael, just 16, was only four days into summer camp when he collapsed while playing basketball. His hopes of becoming a writer, sportscaster and so much more ended that night. And our family was changed forever … our hearts have been broken in pieces we never knew existed.

 

Finding a way to survive this brokenness is what we are faced with every day. There is nothing more painful or unnatural than living without a beloved child. Sadly, we have learned that we are not alone. We join many other families who also walk this painful journey as sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) takes the life of a child every hour, many from an undetected heart condition.

 

What most people don’t know is that SCA is:

            – the #1 killer of student athletes (12-25)

            – the leading cause of death on school campuses

            – #2 medical cause of death (12-25)

 

We have also learned that one in 300 youth are at risk for an undetected heart condition that can put them at risk for sudden cardiac arrest. And …. that a simple, non-invasive EKG test can help detect up to 70% of hidden heart conditions that are associated with sudden cardiac death.

 

There is so much that can be done to prevent sudden cardiac death, save young lives and save another family from this pain.  That is the mission our beautiful son Michael has given us. His kind heart, sweet soul and loving ways continue to shine brightly through the work of just1mike (just1mike.org,) the 501(c)(3) foundation that honors his life by saving the lives of others.

 

The foundation was named after Michael’s sports blog, just1mike.com, which he started at age 13 and shared over 100 posts in just three years. The mission of just1mike is to raise awareness and increase survival rates of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) in teens and young adults through training, screenings and education.

 

Formed in 2017, just1mike has helped fund in-school cardiac screenings conducted by Young Hearts for Life (YH4L,) the largest youth screening program in the U.S.  When Young Hearts for Life comes to a high school, every student at the school is given the gift of a free EKG test during the school day.

 

We pushed ourselves to start the foundation in order to help bring a screening to Michael’s high school and include Michael’s senior classmates. That YH4L screening was held in September, 2017 where over 1,900 students were screened through EKG testing. At the end of the school day we learned that 13 students were recommended for further evaluation and five were diagnosed through the EKG results with a heart condition that is associated with sudden cardiac death. To date, just1mike has helped to fund YH4L screenings at five suburban Chicago area high schools where over 7,600 student have been offered the gift of free EKG testing.

 

I know that the phone call at the end of a screening day is such an emotional experience for a parent …. to learn that their child has been identified to be at risk because of a previously undetected heart condition. But, that phone call is truly a blessing …. it’s not the phone call that we received.

 

So, I ask parents, does your child have a heart condition?  Before you answer “no” – are you certain?

 

While our work has been focused in suburban Chicago, the area where we raised our family, there are families all across the country who are also working hard to protect young hearts by supporting youth cardiac screenings. Many families, just like ours who have lost a child to SCA. You can locate screening programs, by state on the Parent Heart Watch website (parentheartwatch.org), the only national organization working to prevent sudden cardiac arrest in youth.

 

Michael’s zest for life, loving ways, passion, courage, humor and gorgeous smile are written all over hearts. He poured out so much love to all who knew him. This is not what we thought our family story would be, but it is our reality. It’s now up to us to determine a path forward that reflects all the love, joy and goodness of our beloved son and to make a positive impact on the lives of others.

 

Please join us in raising awareness to sudden cardiac arrest in youth and make sure to have your children screened with an EKG test every two years.

Kristy Brindley is the mother of three boys and two dogs.  She stayed at home to raise her kids and start an interior decorating business when the boys were in school.  Kristy enjoyed providing decorating ideas and custom window treatments for clients. Also, she joined Rodan + Fields as an independent executive consultant and continues to manage that business today.

Prior to that, Kristy had a career in advertising sales and management for the Chicago Sun-Times and circulation sales for USA Weekend Magazine. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (journalism major) from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. 

Currently, Kristy is President of the just1mike foundation. She resides with her husband Bob and two dogs…Maizy and Champ in Sonoma, CA. She enjoys time with her family, walking their dogs, gardening, interior design and good wine.

 

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