AED fundraiser’s next goal: cardiac testing

Sue Edson began a mission in 2011 to get automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, into every school in School District 51.

She achieved that goal this fall, when Community Hospital donated $77,000 to her organization, ARVD Heart for Hope. That donation paid for 50 AEDs. The Palisade Lions Club donated two more devices, the Kiwanis Club donated another, and Edson and Grand Junction High student Robert Harrison helped bring AED devices before the hospital donation into all four of District 51’s main high schools.

The donations were enough to place one AED in every District 51 school, plus Caprock Academy, Holy Family Catholic School and schools in De Beque, Collbran and Delta County School District 50. Edson now has a goal of getting more AEDs so school teams can travel with the devices and still leave one behind at the school. Edson estimated 300 people have been trained so far to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation and use the AED devices in schools, and District 51 plans to get all of its coaches CPR trained this school year.

“It’s just been so rewarding — the excitement around it, how many people want to be trained,” Edson said.

But she doesn’t want to stop with AEDs. Edson’s next project, in cooperation with Dr. Dilaawar “Danny” Mistry of Western Orthopedics and Sports Medicine and Community Hospital’s Teri Schroeder, is “It’s the Heart that Matters.” The goal of that project is to raise awareness about the importance of cardiac screening in addition to regular health physicals and encourage athletes and people of all ages to have their hearts checked out.

The common thread between the projects is sudden cardiac arrest, a condition where the heart unexpectedly stops beating. An AED can restart the heart, but “It’s the Heart that Matters” aims to ensure athletes know their risks of a cardiac episode before such a startling event occurs.

Mistry said he recommends athletes, especially those with symptoms of a heart condition like shortness of breath, chest pain, or a rapid heart beat, get both an electrocardiogram and an echocardiogram. Mistry said an EKG, which tests for problems with electrical activity in the heart, can be beneficial but confusing or misleading if not paired with an echocardiogram. An echocardiogram is essentially a sonogram of the heart to check for numerous factors, including blood flow, heart damage and heart size and structure.

Mistry worked with athletes at the University of Virginia before coming to Grand Junction 15 months ago. His colleague there, Head Team Cardiologist Bob Battle, will help him examine results from echocardiograms performed by Schroeder with a new, $85,000 heart sonogram machine Community Hospital has agreed to pay for to increase local access to echocardiograms.

“(Cardiac) testing has to be of very high quality or we’re more likely to mistake normal cardiac physiology of athletes and sideline healthy athletes and not make the proper diagnosis for those with a problem,” Battle said via phone Wednesday.

Mistry said pairing the two tests with a physical will help him and other physicians properly detect heart problems and advise athletes with a heart condition to curb their exercise practices to avoid complications such as sudden cardiac arrest.

“We have to do it this way or we’re going to kill people,” he said.

People who want to learn more about the program or seek echocardiogram or EKG services can contact Mistry at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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