ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Simon’s Fund provides heart screenings

Simon’s Fund is an organization that has provided free heart screenings to students for the past 11 years. The organization was created by Phyllis and Darren Sudman following the loss of their baby, Simon, who died from an unknown heart defect. Simon was only 14 weeks old when he died, and his family was encouraged to get their hearts checked. This showed that Simon’s mother, Phyllis, also had the heart defect. The condition is called Sudden Cardiac Arrest, SCA, which can affect all ages and is the number one killer of student athletes.

On Mar. 4, heart screenings were provided for students ages 12 to 19 here by Simon’s Fund. These screening are completely free and available to whoever comes from any school. The doctors are certified cardiologists from Children’s National Medical Center and Johns Hopkins Hospital to test the the student’s hearts and read their electrocardiograms, EKG’s. The doctors take their height, weight and blood pressure prior to checking their hearts. If the screening shows any abnormalities, the student will get a free consultation right on the spot that day. “What we’re trying to prove with our organization is that everyone gets their eyes, ears, and nose checked and all kids should have their hearts checked too,” co-founder Phyllis Sudman said.

Prior to Simon’s Fund, heart screenings were not common high school events.  Through the efforts of three teenage boys, who chose the cause as the focus of a joint mitzvah project, the organization was brought to the community. Provided heart screening completely free was rare to our area and because of these boys, the word spread to local families. Jill Johnson and Marnie Whelan are both parents of children who heard about the youth heart screening from one of the boys on a soccer team. They were impressed and grateful for the valuable opportunity. The benefits of having one’s child checked for heart conditions can be enormous. “It can be life changing because people don’t know they have a problem until it is a problem so this could really save somebody’s life,” Johnson said.

Between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., lives were being changed and minds were put at ease here in the cafeteria. Even if the screening did not show any problems, the knowledge of knowing one’s health is in good condition can be a load off their and their family’s mind. The people working and volunteering at this event are trying to get their message out, which is that heart screenings should be a standard of care in the United States. Not only were the doctors checking the students hearts, but the volunteers provided vital help throughout the day. The volunteers were athletic training majors from Towson University who came to help check the hearts. “We are here helping, trying to make sure we get as many people screened as possible so they are aware if they have a heart condition or not,” volunteer Abigail Smith said.

Hannah Shapiro

Staff Writer

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