Saturday, February 4, 2012

The 9th Ward...

I was sitting in the New Orleans airport a few weeks ago venturing home after the Parent Heart Watch National Conference.  As I sat nearly alone at 6:00 am at the gate, I begin to reflect on the past several weeks and was reminded of how far we've come and how far we've yet to go. I could not help but recall my weekend attending our 3rd conference with Parent Heart Watch and contemplate about attending our first conference 2 and one-half years earlier.  That first conference, nothing more than emotional haze, attending a mere 6 months after Quinn died.  Knowing today the only way we got through it was the fact we were surrounded by a couple of hundred other parents suffering the same grief.  I recalled how we felt then, paralyzed by grief and unsure how we could ever muster the strength to turn our tragedy into action.

As the calendar tears away months, here I sit, thinking about how far we’ve progressed since that first conference but am reminded of how far we’ve yet to go.  I had the opportunity to speak at this year’s Parent Heart Watch National Conference and tell our story about the Young Champions Heart Screening program.  As proud as I am about the herculean efforts of so many to make the Young Champions Heart Screenings a community success, I could not help but break down during my presentation.  My tears were shed for the recent tragedies in our community- most notably the recent death of Cody Sherrill from sudden cardiac arrest.

Although an honor to speak about the collective determination of a family, foundation, friends and community to protect our kids- I was overcome at the podium by the heartache I knew families right in my backyard were feeling.  Although grateful to speak about our efforts and point to several known “saves” and helping countless families.   The pain of three sudden cardiac arrests in as many weeks in the Vancouver area kept my enthusiasm in check. 

While in my solitude at the gate, I could not help but think about the fact that life draws an endless number parallels.  You know, those situational experiences whereby lessons are learned, some subtle, while others smash you like a ton of bricks.  One of those hit-you-like-a-ton-of-brick parallels played out loud and clear that weekend in New Orleans.  We all know the devastation that took place in New Orleans and the efforts that have taken place to bring this historic city back from almost total ruin. 

On the surface, New Orleans appears to have recovered.  However, if you look a little deeper, you realize the city may never heal from the gaping wounds that were sliced like an axe from Katrina.  A tour of the 9th Ward and the entire city by a native New Orleans resident (and a friend) proved to be the crowning symbolic analogous life lessons I’ve ever experienced.

Not unlike the efforts of families, foundations and so many others to try and fix our crisis surrounding sudden cardiac arrest in our youth, the residents of New Orleans are trying to repair their loss.  On the surface, we have come a long way in our collective fights and are doing amazing things.  However, if you look just under the surface, we have a long way to go.

Know your family health history, understand the signs and symptoms of potential cardiac issues, ask your physician for a routine cardiac screen, learn CPR and how to administer an AED.

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