Heartfelt Foundation seeks to prevent tragic death by sudden cardiac arrest

Heartfelt Cardiac Projects performs an electrocardiography on a little girl.

Heartfelt Cardiac Projects performs an electrocardiography on a little girl. (Courtesy of Holly Morrell of Heartfelt)

Felipe Andres De La Cruz, a 13-year-old boy from Westminster, died on the soccer field on Aug. 26 due to sudden cardiac arrest. De La Cruz was a healthy young boy with no signs of any heart conditions until the moment he collapsed and died.

The De La Cruz family contacted Holly Morrell of Heartfelt Cardiac Projects to set up a screening for their community so no one else has to go through the tragic loss that they did.

Holly Morrell founded Heartfelt Cardiac Projects in 2007 in order to serve and educate the public by making them aware of many undetected but deadly heart conditions that can be present in many young people.

Morrell lost six of her family members to a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and is one of three of her family members that live with the condition. She dedicates her work to them and all the families she has helped to find heart conditions that can be dealt with before tragedy strikes.

“Sudden cardiac death is the no. 1 killer in the U.S.,” Morrell said. “It’s also is the no. 1 killer of women in this county.”

A major misconception when it comes to sudden cardiac arrest in athletes is that most people don’t understand the difference between heart attack and cardiac arrest. The American Heart Association describes cardiac arrest as a malfunction in the heart’s electrical system, unlike a heart attack, which is caused by a loss of blood flow to the heart due to a blockage.

“Marathon runners, Olympic athletes, professional athletes, World Cup soccer players and high school athletes are dying every three days in this country, ” Morrell said. “I think that if people would understand the difference between cardiac arrest and heart attack so many lives would be saved.”

Heartfelt is an organization dedicated to serving its community by making cardiac screening, including the Echocardiogram (ECHO) and Electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG), available to the public for a donation of $85.

These screenings can detect many things, including structural issues like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, that can be detected on the ECHO, to a major rhythmic issue like Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a syndrome that causes rapid heartbeat, that can be detected on the EKG.

“Early detection isn’t generally available to the public, at least without it being an enormous financial burden,” Morrell said. “The type of screening that we offer, conservatively speaking, is about $1,500 and it’s not typically covered by insurance.”

Unlike most cardiologists offices, Heartfelt doesn’t require insurance or extensive wait times to get screened. The patient simply registers online, shows up to the screening event and gets screened.

These screenings usually only take about 30 minutes per person and are completely painless. No prior action is necessary for the screening.

Heartfelt Cardiac Projects relies on donations and volunteers in order to keep up and running. Donations can be made either through a link on the website or by bringing the donation to the screening. Setting up screenings take money, time and energy which Morrell and her team need assistance with.

“They do anything from helping us set up/pack up, to helping at the admin desk, checking in and out patients,” said Morrell. “Basically, we go into a community based venue and set up a whole screening facility.”

The next screening in the Orange County area will take place on Nov. 12 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Festival Hall at the Old World German Village in Huntington Beach. Registration is now open on Heartfelt’s website.

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