Our city's young athletes might not know it, but they could be at risk for heart disease, and this week's New Yorker shares a personal story about her son to show why she raises awareness about these unknown conditions. NY1's John Schiumo filed the following report.
Arista Burtrum's son Chad appeared healthy, an athlete who played any sport that kept him running.
"He had such a joy and a love for life," she says.
Twenty years ago, at the age of 26, he suddenly collapsed in the middle of a football game.
Arista was stunned to learn that her oldest son died from an abnormally enlarged heart. Like many victims, Chad had no symptoms.
"He had asthma, but never a heart problem," she says. "So this is what really inspired me to find out why so many young athletes are dying and what can be done about it."
What Arista did was create The Chad Foundation to raise awareness about sudden cardiac death in young athletes and students.
Her organization provides free heart screenings with trained cardiologists. These tests could cost patients up to $3,000.
Screenings are key measures that can identify risk factors early on.
"He had a heart attack on the football field, which no one knew was going to happen," says Anya Vaughan-Wood, Chad's niece. "So I think it's just important for anyone that's active and anyone in general to just get checked."
"His loss was very hard for a lot of people, particularly the sudden aspect of it. It's not something that anybody, any family should have to deal with," says Nicholas Wood, Chad's stepbrother. "The worst thing about it is, it's preventable. So that's what this is all about."
Arista has teamed up with public schools and hospitals in the five boroughs. So far, the Chad Foundation has provided almost 7,000 heart screenings in five states.
"Chad taught me this. It's not how many years you're on this Earth. It's what you do with the years you're given," Arista says. "And I'm thankful for that lesson."
So, for keeping her son's spirit alive by promoting healthier lives for others, Arista Burtrum is the latest New Yorker of the Week.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
For more information, or to donate to the Chad Foundation, visit their website at chadfoundation.org.