Founder of Aidan’s Heart Foundation.
On Labor Day Weekend 2010, Christy Silva was getting ready to go to a barbecue with her sons—Devin, 4, and Aidan, 7. As she was helping her youngest get dressed, Aidan became quiet. “I called him, and he didn’t answer,” she recalls.
She found her eldest son in the hallway, lying on his side. “I reached over to tickle his belly, and there was no movement whatsoever,” she says. “I looked up at his face, and it was blue.”
Finding no pulse, Silva called 911 and began CPR. By the time the first responders arrived with an automated external defibrillator, Aidan was gone. He’d been given a clean bill of health from his pediatrician just a few months earlier.
Over 350,000 Americans suffer from sudden cardiac arrest each year outside the hospital. About 90 percent die. While it disproportionally impacts adults, about 7,000 children are victims each year. Usually, there’s an unknown underlying condition like arrhythmia or a structural anomaly. “I’d never even heard of sudden cardiac arrest before,” says Silva. “We don’t often hear about these deaths, sometimes because they’re mistermed a heart attack, or a child dies due to heat exhaustion.”
Silva has since made it her mission to educate families on CPR and AED, launching Aidan’s Heart Foundation in 2013. The organization offers a free series of screenings that include family heart history, blood pressure, height and weight, along with an EKG. In partnership with a children’s cardiologist and other volunteers, Aidan’s Heart has administered over 2,000 to date. “They are able to determine whether the child needs follow-up care or not right on the spot,” says Silva, noting that 30-second electrocardiograms can effectively detect 70 percent of heart conditions that cause SCA.
To further honor their son’s memory, Silva and her husband established a 5K around Aidan’s birthday. The funds raised from the event—$14,000 in the first year alone—go to education and life-saving technology. The foundation has also partnered with the Downingtown Area School District to educate over 6,500 students on CPR and AED use.