MILL CREEK, WA — Every day, ordinary people throughout our nation do extraordinary things for total strangers. They volunteer in thousands of little ways and seek to make some sort of difference in this thing we call life.
Darla Varrenti is no exception.
She redefines the word “extraordinary” as she works tirelessly to train up the next generation of life savers and keep young futures bright through the Nick of Time Foundation (NoTF).
Through the NoTF, Darla works to preserve the memory of her son, Nick, who died from Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) in 2004, and is helping to increase SCA awareness through education, CPR /AED training, preventative EKG heart screenings, and more.
Nick, the Man with the Megawatt Smile
Nick Varrenti had a smile that could light up any room. He was a one of a kind kid with a personality that made him well-loved. He was the family jokester and as a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, he proudly donned #58 to show his love of the 70’s style defense.
“He believed in the power of his blue team socks,” says mom Darla. She adds that there wasn’t a day he didn’t wear them in support of keeping “a winning streak alive”.
Nick wasn’t only a fan. He was also a multi-sport athlete, performing well in his prime on many of his high school teams. But everything changed in one bleak moment.
Labor Day, 2004, Nick’s promising career was cut short by a Sudden Cardiac Arrest event that ultimately took his life.
No Child Should Die Doing What They Love
Sudden Cardiac Arrest is the leading killer of student-athletes across America. Young kids die every day, doing what they love, to a condition that is actually preventable. Yet so many are still unaware that the crisis exists.
Darla Varrenti, Nick’s mom, had no prior knowledge of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest epidemic. But soon after losing her son, she began championing the cause to save young athletes with aspiring dreams, just like Nick. Darla chose to turn her pain into hope.
“We may have lost Nick to Sudden Cardiac Arrest but we vow to makes his death count,” says Darla. “[We] are committed to keeping others with hidden cardiac problems alive. We cannot afford to lose any more of our bright future.”
Ignited by the passion to save future lives, Darla and her family created the Nick of Time Foundation (NoTF) in her son’s memory. The Foundation works through various community programs to further SCA awareness. They provide crucial early detection through preventative EKG heart screenings. And train up future life-savers through education and CPR/AED training.
“As parents we teach our children to wear a seat belt or bike helmet, to look both ways before crossing the street,” notes Darla. “With our Nick of Time Foundation programs, we give them the tools and confidence they need to protect their hearts and save someone else’s.”
Through the work of the NoTF, Darla is seeking to train up the next generation of first responders. Because no child should die doing what they love.
How Darla Spreads Awareness Through Education
A firm belief of Darla’s is the potential of the ordinary person stepping in to do the extraordinary to save a life and that applies directly to the NoTF’s mission of training up youth.
“When ordinary people, not just doctors and EMT’s, are equipped with the skills to perform CPR, the survival rate can double or even triple,” says Darla of the results within a community that has received training. That’s why the NoTF advocates for Hands-Only CPR. This form of CPR does not use mouth-to-mouth rescue breaths. But instead, it focuses on chest compressions.
Hands-Only CPR has been proven to be as effective as conventional CPR. And it is repeatedly shown to be the method bystanders are most confident in using. Performing this life-saving action requires only two steps:
- Call 911 when you see someone collapse and is unresponsive
- Apply hard and fast chest compressions at 100-120 beats per minute.
The American Heart Association promotes the use of songs such as “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees, “Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira, or “Walk the Line” by Johnny Cash. These songs and more include this 100-120 beats per minute time.
In fact, the kid’s song sweeping the nation, “Baby Shark”, is another the makes use of this beat. With these songs in mind, it is easy to keep with the beat and potentially save a life.
Making Schools & Communities HEARTSafe
NoTF has trained over 27,000 individuals through its community events and screenings. They also work one-on-one with schools to provide Emergency Action Plans (EAPs).
These plans not only provide training for a quick response but also train students to be HEARTSafe. A big focus is on heart health awareness. They work alongside schools and communities to help set-up vital life-saving programs and put into practice response plans to keep hearts safe.
Their EAP’s teach students hands-only CPR, steps to take in an emergency, and proper use of an AED. To date, NoTF has assisted over 200 schools in preparing and implementing EAP’s.
“Imagine how many lives could be saved if all students learned CPR before graduation,” says Darla. “When you teach kids CPR in schools, you are strengthening community safety and giving students skills they can carry into the future.”
Screening Hearts, Saving Lives
Most youth with hidden heart conditions do not show any symptoms prior to an SCA event. Often a preventative heart screening utilizing an electrocardiogram (EKG) is the only true way to know if a heart is at risk.
Nick of Time Foundation and their medical advisory board have developed this hold standard preventative heart screening program in partnership with the University of Washington Center for Sports Cardiology.
This partnership provides resources to organize and facilitate preventative heart screenings. Together, they provide a gold standard for community-based preventative EKG youth heart screenings.
Check out the video below to get a first-hand look at these screenings.
As a part of this gold standard, the screenings include a heart health survey on the individual. This includes possible symptoms and/or family history of heart conditions.
The next step is an EKG that analyzes the electrical signals of the heart. An echocardiogram is given when either step shows possible concern. Cardiologists and physicians meet with youth to review the results that day to make a final determination.
Screenings are available to adolescents and young adults ages 14-24. And events occur ten times during a school year in local communities.
The NoTF has screened over 22,800 youth at 75 schools, with over 500 requiring follow-up.
Why It Matters
Sudden Cardiac Arrest can happen with little to no warning. As was the case with Nick. His story is why preventative heart screens and awareness matter. That’s why Emerg-A-Center is proud to support the work of the Nick of Time Foundation.
Our Safety Command Centers provide quick and easy access to critical emergency items. This includes an AED, the device that provides the needed shock to an SCA’s victim’s heart. Having an AED within reach can potentially save the life of a loved one or friend. And that’s why we are so passionate about providing these Centers for the home.
Included alongside the AED is a fully-stocked first aid kit, a class ABC fire extinguisher, Instructional Video Brochure, and a flashlight.
The Instructional Video Brochure is an important part of the Center. This provides step-by-step videos on the use of each safety item included in the Center, along with common safety practices.
It is suitable for use as a refresher to basic first aid or for providing instruction to a babysitter. And it’s another way to train up the next generation of life-savers.
Our Center comes in a variety of door options that help it match existing decor. It can easily recess between standard studs or be mounted directly on a wall.