Heart scare prompts push for defibrillators at youth sports venues

Some quick thinking, a good response time and a lot of luck kept one boy’s heart beating and inspired a mother to push for change.

Adam Afromsky loves soccer, so when his team, the Las Vegas Sports Academy 98 Boys Red, went to the state championship last year on Mother’s Day, he was excited.

“It was a normal day,” Adam recalled. “I felt nervous, other than that everything was fine.”

Five minutes into the game, that excitement turned to panic when Adam collapsed from sudden cardiac arrest.

An emergency room doctor and a nurse on adjacent fields rushed over after hearing his mother’s panicked screams. They administered CPR to the unconscious boy until Emergency Medical Services could respond.

“We were lucky, because every minute counts,” Melanie Afromsky, Adam’s mother, said. “Adam is an athlete. He is a healthy boy. We never expected for this to happen.”

When the medical team arrived, they shocked Adam’s heart using a defibrillator.

That day changed the lives of the Afromsky family of five, and Melanie promised herself that the luck that saved her middle child’s life would be routine for all young athletes.

So she and two other soccer moms started Adam’s Heart.

“There were no (defibrillators) on the field and no requirements for them,” Melanie said. “We want (defibrillators) at every sporting venue. We also want coaches and referees CPR- and (defibrillator)-certified.”

Melanie’s concerns stem from how fast a medical emergency can happen, and in cases like her sons, the lack of warning before the incident or the lack of any heart abnormalities found in the aftermath.

Doctors tested Adam for a week after the game but were unable to find any problems with his heart.

Another goal of Adam’s Heart is to educate the public about sudden cardiac arrest, which is not the same as a heart attack.

“Sudden cardiac arrest is the sudden, unexpected loss of heart function, breathing and consciousness,” according to the Mayo Clinic website. “Sudden cardiac arrest usually results from an electrical disturbance in your heart that disrupts its pumping action, stopping blood flow to the rest of your body.”

Adam’s Heart is in the beginning stages, but like it’s namesake, it is beating strongly.

“This year at our state tournament, there were (defibrillators) there,” Melanie said. “We need to make sure that everyone is safe. That’s kind of our mission right now. We’re the turtle, not the hare, but we’re in it for the long run.”

Education is also a personal goal of Patty Rasmussen, vice president of Las Vegas Sports Academy.

“You hear of stories that happen, but to be there … it impacted everybody,” Rasmussen said. “All of a sudden, it was up close and personal. We need to be aware of what to do in case of emergency.”

Sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to Mary Newman, president of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation.

There are as many as 10,000 deaths a year in youths under 18, though those numbers have been disputed by experts, Newman said. Educating the public is key to ensuring that the numbers go down.

“Survival rates increase from 10 percent to almost 40 percent when bystanders get involved,” Newman said. “We strongly support and advocate widespread CPR training and widespread deployment of (defibrillators).”

The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation has a similar goal to Adam’s Heart with its “You Can Save a Life in School” campaign to get defibrillators onto all school athletic fields.

“Being able to react when it does happen (is critical),” Newman said. “It’s important to be trained in CPR and with the defibrillator. All school officials should be trained and have (defibrillators) accessible, not only in the buildings, but on the sports fields as well.”

As Melanie Afromsky works on Adam’s Heart, Adam works on getting back to his routine.

“Everyone has been very supportive, asking how I am,” Adam said. Things have eased up for him, and “friends are now treating me normally.”

Getting back into soccer was especially important for the Palo Verde High School sophomore.

“I couldn’t play for a little more than six months,” Adam said. “I started training in September. It was very hard.”

Adam, who has an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator and takes a daily beta blocker medication, would like to continue to play soccer throughout high school and into college.

“My dream would be to play professionally, but we’ll see about that,” Adam said. “I want to go into real estate. I’ve (also) been inspired a little to be a cardiologist.”

This year, Adam went back to play in the 2013 State of Nevada Soccer Championship in the under-15 category. His team won.

Adam celebrated with his team like any other boy.

“His friends smashed his face in the cake,” Melanie said. “We celebrated winning state, but we also celebrated having Adam with us.”

Contact Rochel Leah Goldblatt at
rgoldblatt@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0264.

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