Alice Schoen and Dana Colasante are co-founders of Saving Active Hearts – a vital initiative they started after they each had a loved one who fell victim to a Sudden Cardiac Arrest. We are so excited to introduce you to their life-saving mission during October which is Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month: Education and Prevention.
Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in town?
Dana grew up on Staten Island and has lived in Rye Brook since 2000 with her husband, Dave and two sons Gabe(20) and Will(18).
Alice is from Matawan, NJ and has lived in Rye Brook since 2002 with her husband, Steve and 3 children; Jessica(24), Jason(22) and Jordan(20).
How did you meet?
We were acquaintances for years because we had boys in the same grade but really connected after we each experienced life changing events due to a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). We since have become passionate advocates for promoting the importance of having an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) accessible at youth athletic programs and of bystander CPR, and as a result partnered to start Saving Active Hearts.
Dana Colasante’s Story
On November 16, 2013, my husband, Dave was playing in a father/son soccer game with my son’s travel team when he collapsed and suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. An ER doctor, who happened to be on an adjacent field, saved Dave’s life by performing CPR and using an AED that was retrieved from the nearby school which happened to be open on the weekend.
Alice Schoen’s Story
On December 27, 2017, my son, Jordan collapsed and went into sudden cardiac arrest during a varsity basketball game. Jordan survived because of two spectators; a doctor and an off-duty police officer. The doctor administered CPR while the officer ran to his police car to retrieve the AED. Jordan did not have a pre-existing heart condition or any warning signs prior to his sudden cardiac arrest.
What is Saving Active Hearts’ Mission?
Our mission is to protect young athletes from dying from a sudden cardiac arrest by creating awareness of the risks while playing sports and advocating for AEDs, CPR/AED training, and cardiac emergency response plans for youth athletic programs. We chose to focus on youth athletic programs because that is where our loved ones experienced SCA and we discovered that most youth programs are not prepared for cardiac emergencies.
What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)
Sudden cardiac arrest is not a heart attack. It is a life-threatening emergency that occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating due to an abnormality in its electrical system. SCA can strike without warning, leading to death in minutes if the person does not receive immediate treatment. According to the American Heart Association, this treatment should be provided within three minutes of collapse to be effective. Even the fastest emergency medical services may not be able to reach a victim this quickly. That is why prompt action by bystanders is so critical, and why it is so important to have AEDs onsite and more laypersons trained in CPR/AED use. SCA is the leading cause of death in the U.S. and is the #1 killer of student athletes. There are over 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests annually. 90% of sudden cardiac arrests lead to death. However, studies show that bystander CPR and the use of an AED can triple the victim’s chance of survival.
Tell us about the work you have done in Rye Brook?
Our first big milestone was in May 2018 working with the Rye Brook Village Administration and local EMS to develop and implement what has become the Village of Rye Brook Cardiac Emergency Response Plan, pursuant to which all volunteer coaches for Rye Brook’s recreation programs must be certified in CPR, and all village parks must have AEDs and signage indicating where the AEDs are located. As a result of Rye Brook’s plan, Rye Brook Youth Soccer and Rye Brook Rebels Travel Baseball also require CPR/AED training for coaches. Over 100 volunteer coaches have been certified in CPR/AED use taught by Lt. Kenny Barton of the Port Chester-Rye-Rye Brook EMS.
In addition, we worked with the Blind Brook School Athletic Director, to create a pre-event medical review card and procedure for coaches and officials to identify where the AED is and who knows CPR. New York State law requires schools to have AEDs and at least one staff person who is trained in the operation and use of an AED at all school-sponsored events including athletic contests. However, we wanted to make sure they had a specific plan to react quickly and appropriately. Preparation is the essential key to savings lives.
We also facilitated an AED donation. The Blind Brook High School boys’ varsity soccer team raised $2,500 in their annual car wash fundraiser. We used the money to buy an AED and CPR/AED training for staff at Don Bosco Community Center in Port Chester for their summer camp and after school programs.
What more are you doing in Westchester?
We work very closely with the local chapter of the American Heart Association on all our advocacy efforts, and we have recently teamed up with a pediatric cardiologist to develop a community outreach program that will provide resources to Westchester County schools and communities for developing CPR/AED programs that include Cardiac Emergency Response Plans (CERP). We have presented to the Westchester County Board of Legislations and state officials lobbying for legislation requiring AED/CPR trained personnel and onsite AEDs in youth athletic programs and camps. We have strong support from NY State Senator Shelley Mayer, NY State Assemblyman Steve Otis and County Legislator Nancy Barr who are helping us spread awareness.
We have met with other towns to share the Rye Brook CERP template in hopes more municipalities will adopt a similar plan. In addition, we have presented to a group of Westchester County school athletic directors to create awareness of SCA and share the pre-event medical review card and procedures we developed with Blind Brook.
How has this community been instrumental in getting you to where you are now?
The Rye Brook Cardiac Emergency Response Plan was a wonderful coordinated effort with our Village Administration, EMS, police department and school administration who all continue to support our ongoing efforts. This was the inspiration for starting Saving Active Hearts.
What can parents do?
*Ask your child’s coach if the team/league has an AED and a person trained in CPR at all practices and games.
*Educate yourself on the signs and risk factors of sudden cardiac arrest.
*Get certified in CPR. Contact Lt. Ken Barton of the Port Chester-Rye-Rye Brook EMS at firstname.lastname@example.org
*Reach out to us with any questions: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org