6-Year-Old Survives Cardiac Arrest Because School Had Plan

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Sudden Cardiac Death Kills 250,000 a Year

Olivia is no longer allowed to do her favorite competitive sports --gymnastics, ice skating and swimming, because of the danger of her having cardiac arrest, falling from a gym beam or breaking her neck on the ice or drowning in the pool, according to her father.

But she has now discovered tae kwon do and hip-hop dancing.

"So far, the cardio readings show she is not pushing herself too far," he said.

It's been hard for Olivia to adjust to the new normal.

"Initially, she was concerned that that she wasn't like everyone else -- that she was different, somehow," said her father. "So I say, 'You are different because this happened to you.' Let's look at the positive side of what you can do."

From the age of 7, Olivia has been an active spokeswoman for the American Heart Association, meeting with former Sen. Scott Brown and other legislators. During Heart Month, she encouraged her classmates to support research and "wear red."

"She is getting the word out that school staff should be trained in CPR, and schools should have AEDs and an emergency medical response plan," said Quigley. "She's putting herself out there."

Summers, she attends an annual camp for others with heart disease.

"That was huge for her," said her father. "All the kids were the same and they were comparing scars."

Olivia and her parents deal with her medical issues in different ways.

"Initially, you just want your child to be well -- you want her to survive," said Quigley. "Now she's survived, where do we go from here?"

The first year, Olivia had nine medical appointments a week.

"That kept you busy and you felt you were doing something, running around here and there," he said. "As that dwindles away, how do you get back to what is normal for your family?"

Now they are active in getting schools to prepare for an event like Olivia's.

"I was completely unaware that her school had a plan," said Quigley. "It's not something I thought to ask, but I am so thankful they did."

Quigley recently attend a conference in Texas for parents of children who had suffered from cardiac arrest.

"It was a huge room and the room was packed. Ninety percent of them had lost a child," he said. "Cardiac arrest isn't rare, survival is."

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