BALTIC, SOUTH DAKOTA — Ann Thompson didn’t know teens could have a heart problem. Her family had never been trained in CPR. She’d never even heard of Sudden Cardiac Arrest, nor knew of any risk for it. But when her seemingly healthy son Adam collapsed and died suddenly in 2012, her life forever changed. Now, she and her family are strong advocates for Sudden Cardiac Arrest awareness and preventative heart screenings. Through the Adam L. Thompson Foundation they seek to offer education and prevention so that no family has to face the daily regret they face.
Full of Life – Gone Without Warning
Ann smiles as she recalls the day she took young Adam to a butterfly house. She thought for sure they’d be charged with butterfly murder after her son began swatting the butterflies left and right.
He’d never been a fan of bugs or things flying near him.
These are the memories she holds on to after Adam’s tragic passing. He loved life, friends, family, and was especially fond of tacos.
“[Adam] was never a complainer,” Ann recalls. “Never took life too seriously, like many adults do.”
May 23rd, 2012 started as any normal day would.
Ann and her husband Troy left for work, dropping their daughter Abby off at daycare. Adam, their oldest, left for classes at Baltic High School where he was a freshman. He was supposed to walk home that day after driver’s education, but Ann wanted him to go with her to town, so she picked him after school.
It was an otherwise normal day.
Arriving home, Adam felt short of breath and noted that his heart felt like it was racing as they exited the car. After spending some time talking about driver’s ed with his dad, Adam complained of tiredness and left to lay down. Moments later came the sound that brought Ann’s life crushing down.
“We heard a loud bang…and found Adam laying on the floor,” recalls Ann.
Abby called 911 while Ann tried desperately to get her son to sit up. “I thought if I could get him to sit up he would be okay. We had no idea what was going on.” Adam quickly turned blue and was gone within in a matter of moments.
Education is Key
After receiving the results of Adam’s autopsy and still reeling from his sudden loss, Ann received the news she never expected.
Adam had experienced a Sudden Cardiac Arrest event, stemming from a hidden heart condition. This condition presented itself in only one symptom: Adam’s death.
Adam had Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) —- his heart was four times the thickness of a normal teenage heart. Ann didn’t know teens needed to have preventative heart screenings. She didn’t know the signs of someone needing CPR. And now, she lives everyday with the pain of losing her son and that regret.
But that’s not the end of her story. That’s not the end of Adam’s story.
Local health care professionals had a connection they knew who could help Ann in her darkest hour. And they made a call to none other than Sharon Bates of the Anthony Bates Foundation. Sharon reached out directly to Ann to offer support, a listening ear, and guidance.
“She told us about Parent Heart Watch and the rest is history,” says Ann. Through connecting with Parent Heart Watch, the National Voice on Sudden Cardiac Arrest, Ann was able to find answers to the questions she had. New found friends knew the pain she was going through and helped her as she walked the difficult road of losing a child to SCA. And through these connections and research, Ann’s mission was set.
“I want other parents to know the things I didn’t,” says Ann of starting the Adam L. Thompson Foundation. Her mission is the educate members of the community on CPR and Sudden Cardiac Arrest awareness, and preparing them to potentially save a life.
Changing the Culture
Every two months in their local community of Baltic, the Foundation offers Hands-Only CPR and AED training classes.
Hands-Only CPR is the preferred method of CPR for bystander use because of how easy it is to learn and perform. It involves hard and fast compressions at the rate of 125 beats per minute. That’s equal to the beat of songs like “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees or “Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira. In the event of a cardiac arrest, quick response is key. That’s why these classes are so important.
Ann is helping to educate and spread needed awareness in an area that had none of these resources available when she was raising Adam. She’s changing the culture.
“Our community has really been responsive to learning about SCA,” says Ann. Through the Foundation, Ann speaks at local school meetings to present on SCA in South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota. The Foundation also has a presence at local events with an informational booth and provides awareness about Sudden Cardiac Arrest, prevention measures, and CPR/AED use.
In addition to these education initiatives, they also provide low cost preventative heart screenings to local youth. And when able, they assist with AED donation. The biggest obstacle to these donations is the cost of an AED, which can often run upwards of $1,500. So far, they have been able to secure funds for and donate three AEDs. This is the program they hope to continue to see growth in.
Why It Matters
As Ann works to make education and preventative heart screenings available, she is helping raise greater awareness of Sudden Cardiac Arrest. And in the process, increasing the number of bystander first responders.
The Thompson’s story is why it all matters. Before Adam’s tragic death, Ann had never heard of Sudden Cardiac Arrest, much less the effect it could have on her family. But because of her work, a far greater number of parents are now aware of the risks and are trained to respond. Though it doesn’t bring back her son, it continues to path the path of prevention towards saving future lives and families.
The Emerg-A-Center is proud to support the work of the Adam l. Thompson Foundation and their efforts. As the market’s only Safety Command Center, we understand the important having quick access to life-saving tools. And we know how critical training can be in an emergency. That’s why all of our safety products include an Instructional Video Brochure that walks the user through the use of each safety item inside our Centers and Bags. And also teaches vital safety skills like CPR, the Heimlich, and more.
We honored to feature the work of Ann and her amazing team.
You can learn more about the Adam L. Thompson and support their efforts on Facebook.