SAN DIEGO, CA — Eric Paredes loved life. An energetic and outgoing young man, he was passionate about making the world a better place. Ten years after his death, his parents are living out his legacy through the Eric Paredes Save a Life Foundation. In the past decade, their drive and passion has helped save over 200 lives in memory of Eric. And the work continues on.
Making the World a Better Place
Making the World a Better Place It was typical Thursday afternoon. A fan of hip hop and dance, Eric was listening to music and chilling at home. His mother, Rhina, had just left for an appointment. His dad, Hector, a California Highway Patrol officer, arrived home late for lunch that day. It was just twenty-minutes after his wife had left.
Music was blaring when Hector walked in and he thought Eric was hiding from him. Moments later he discovered his son unresponsive on the kitchen floor. Unfortunately, it too much time had passed for CPR to be effective. Eric died of a Sudden Cardiac Arrest event from an undetected heart condition.
“With a nurse for a mother and a CHP officer for a father, we thought we were prepared for any kind of emergency,” the couple says. The reality they later learned is that 1 in 300 youth have a heart abnormality that puts them at risk for an SCA event.
Eric loved sports and excelled in school. He was full of energy and life. A strong athlete, he never showed any signs of a heart defect. Sadly, without a preventative heart screen, the first symptom of an undetected heart condition is death in far too many cases. Eric was passionate about making changes that would create a better world. Through his legacy, his parents are seeking to do just that.
Save a Life
Shortly after Eric’s passing, sorting through their own grief, the Paredes learned about Parent Heart Watch,. This national organization champions the cause of SCA prevention. Attending a national conference, the couple learned they weren’t alone and felt empowered to start their own screening program.
“We knew that there were kids that were dying from sudden cardiac arrest and Eric’s dad and I felt like we needed to do something about that,” said Rhina in a recent interview. “We couldn’t imagine other parents going through this grief and nightmare.”
Rhina, a professional in the nursing field, worked at Scripps Hospital in San Diego. And it was there that she connected with Dr. John Rogers, a cardiologist, and approached him with her mission.
“[H]e looked at me straight-faced and said, ‘You have no idea but I have always wanted to do this,’” Rhina recalls. As it turns out, Dr. Rogers had a passion for prevention SCA in youth. He agreed to become the Foundation’s medical director. Several other Scripps employees volunteered their time to make the dream of free heart screenings a reality. The Eric Paredes Save a Life Foundation was born.
A preventative heart screen by an EKG costs less than a new pair of sneakers. And, it has the potential to save a life. Yet, in everyday sports physicals and wellness checks, this type of check is never run. Through the work of thousands of dedicated medical volunteers, the Paredes host free youth heart screenings across San Diego County.
Now in their 10th year, the Paredes are celebrating success.
“Every single time we do a heart screen we always find about one percent of the kids that we screen we find that they are at risk,” says Rhina. “So, by that I think it’s a success — even for one child that we might have saved from sudden death.” That’s the motivation and passion behind the Paredes’ work.
The Eric Paredes Save a Life Foundation has screened more than 30,000 youth since 2010 at 50 separate events. Among those screened, nearly 500 have been shown to have a heart abnormality. 220 of those are serious enough to put a child risk for an SCA event. Those lives have now been saved because of the Foundation’s work.
The Paredes are also strong advocates for AED placement. This is the device that can delivers the needed shock to an SCA victim’s heart. In total, the Foundation has placed almost 100 AEDs in local communities.
Perhaps one of their biggest accomplishments was as recent as 2016. The Eric Paredes Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act came to be law in legislation. This law mandates SCA prevention in California schools. In addition, it ensures resources are made available about SCA through the Department of Education. And, it requires students and their parent/guardian to review and sign an SCA information sheet.
Another important component is additional SCA training for coaches. And providing coaches with the ability to remove a student athlete who exhibits symptoms believed to be cardiovascular-related from play. Student athletes must be re-cleared to play by a doctor. This year the foundation introduced new legislation that would extend this SCA prevention protocol to community youth sports programs.
Why It Matters
Stories like Eric’s are why the topic of Sudden Cardiac Arrest matters — the life of any one single child is the motivation behind the need for better awareness and greater access to life-saving tools.
The Emerg-A-Center’s safety command center provide quick access to safety items, such as a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, and flashlight, and includes a HeartSine or Philips AED to potentially save a life. Our cabinets fit within for the home and easily recess between studs or mount on a wall for easy access when the situation demands it. Learn more by clicking here.
SCA related deaths are preventable and the Emerg-A-Center supports the work of the Eric Paredes Save a Life Foundation.