Heart for Athletes is a 501(c)(3) Charitable Trust, which was started in 2014 by the friends and family of Sam Cockrell, from Daphne, AL. In 2013, at the age of 16, Sam was a seemingly healthy elite triathlete who unexpectedly suffered from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). After his miraculous survival and the extensive testing that followed, Sam was subsequently diagnosed with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia/cardiomyopathy (ARVD/C). Specialists from around the country worked together to control the arrhythmia caused by his rare heart condition.
The desire of Heart for Athletes is to be a part of the growing trend to perform cardiac screenings on athletes prior to their participation in athletic activities. This service will be provided to athletes in the communities of Baldwin and Mobile, AL, resulting in young lives being saved. Several of the conditions that lead to SCA are detectable, and deaths are preventable.
Because every SCA cannot be prevented, Heart for Athletes also wants to help ensure that our communities are prepared when this emergency occurs. Secondary prevention of SCA involves being ready with a plan of action in place for immediate response. The more people who recognize SCA when it happens, and are prepared to react appropriately with proper CPR technique and AED equipment, the safer our young athletes and our communities will be. Seconds count and any delay in bystander CPR and AED access decreases the victim’s chance of survival.
Click any title to expand content…Our Mission:
The mission of Heart for Athletes is two fold.
- The primary mission is to prevent sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) in young athletes through cardiac screenings, education, and research in the Baldwin and Mobile county areas of Alabama.
- By supporting education and awareness regarding the occurrence and symptoms of SCA, the secondary mission of Heart for Athletes is the prevention of sudden cardiac death once sudden cardiac arrest has occurred. Through the implementation of bystander CPR and use of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs), sudden cardiac deaths can be prevented and our communities will be safer.
Most youth who suffer from SCA have an undetected heart condition. A cardiac screening can detect deadly heart conditions that a typical sports preparticipation physical exam (PPE) simply cannot. By having a heart screening done, silent conditions like Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM), Long QT Syndrome, Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome (WPW), or Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia/Cardiomyopathy (ARVD) have the potential to be found before they cause SCA.
Sudden cardiac arrest can strike with no prior symptoms and victims typically have a dismal chance of survival. Most causes of SCA in youth occur in public places, and as proven in Sam’s case, the immediate implementation of the cardiac chain of survival through the use of an AED, immediate CPR, and fast access to early advanced care is imperative, and can save lives. Our communities will be safer when more AEDs are placed strategically in more public locations, and when more people know what to do when they witness a cardiac emergency and respond appropriately with bystander CPR and AED use.
Dr. Lynn Batten practices medicine at the University of South Alabama department of pediatrics as the director of the division of pediatric cardiology.
A graduate from the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, Dr. Batten conducted her pediatric residency training at USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital, where she also served as pediatric chief resident. She completed her fellowship in pediatric cardiology at Tulane University Medical Center in New Orleans, La.
Since 2000, she has been an active member of USA’s pediatric department as an adjunct faculty member and has been an active member of the medical staff at USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital.
Dr. Batten is board certified in Pediatric Cardiology by the American Board of Pediatrics. She is licensed in both Alabama and Mississippi.
Sam’s story highlights the need for public awareness concerning the risk of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) occurring in young athletes. Doctors need to be knowledgable of the emerging advancements being made to more reliably and accurately identify athletes at risk for cardiac diseases that can lead in SCA, while parents, coaches and the athletes themselves need to be aware of the warning signs (see FAQs). A cardiac screening, not the typical pre-participation physical exam currently used for many athletes, is the best way to detect conditions that lead to SCA. Sam’s condition might have been discovered prior to his SCA, had a cardiac screening been done.
On May 15, 2013, Sam was a seemingly healthy triathlete, swimming at a routine swim practice unaware that the fatigue and heart palpitations that he suddenly experienced were due to a genetic cardiac condition. Sam collapsed on the pool deck in cardiac arrest. Because of immediate access to bystander CPR, defibrillation by an AED, and rapid response by the local EMS, Sam’s life was saved after 20 minutes of resuscitation. After approximately 24 hours at the University of South AL Children’s and Women’s Hospital in Mobile, he was flown by critical care transport jet to The Children’s Hospital in Birmingham. After extensive testing, he was diagnosed with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia/cardiomyopathy (ARVD/C) and now lives with an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) in his chest.
Sam started his first semester at the University of South Alabama in Mobile in January of 2014. On March 18th, on the university campus, Sam’s ICD shocked him multiple times, but was unable to stop the arrhythmia. Once his device exhausted therapy, Sam suffered from a second sudden cardiac arrest. After 65 minutes of CPR, Sam was resuscitated. Six days later, once stabilized, he was flown by air ambulance to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore where he underwent more tests and an epicardial ablation procedure. After nine days in the CCU in Baltimore, Sam was discharged. Two days later, he resumed his college classes.
Unfortunately, Sam’s ARVD story didn’t end there. In the fall of 2014, Sam had two more ablation procedures at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in September and a cardiac sympathetic denervation at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA in November. Thankfully, since the procedure done at UCLA, Sam remains asymptomatic. His ventricular ectopy levels have significantly decreased, and he has remained free of ICD therapy.