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All to often the media will highlight the sudden death of young and aspiring athletes. The attention is given because their traumatic deaths occur during or after a sporting event. Like those children portrayed in the media, our son, Andrew Ortega also succumbed to Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). However, unlike those athletes, he quietly passed away in his sleep and there was nothing that could have been done. Our son was a vibrant, athletic, gifted and talented young man; he was a leader amongst his peers and had big plans for a promising future. The sad fact of the matter is such deaths occur more often than it is portrayed. HCM and Long QT Syndrome are the leading contributors to SCA. Both these genetic conditions often go undetected and affect many of our children.
There are a number of medical causes for Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). The most common cause of SCA in athletes is a condition known as hypertropic cardiomyopathy (HCM). In this disease, the heart muscle is abnormally thickened, making it difficult to pump blood effectively during heavy exercise. It also disrupts the heart's electrical system, which can lead to death. The condition often presents no symptoms, especially at rest, but children may experience shortness of breath, chest pain or fainting with exertion. Another cause of SCA is a type of irregular heartbeat known as Long QT Syndrome. An inherited disorder, Long QT Syndrome is a disturbance of the heart's electrical system that causes rapid, chaotic heart beats. Children and teens should have a complete medical history and physical exam before participating in competitive sports which includes an EKG and Echocardiogram.
The Andrew Ortega Foundation was established in 2010 in an effort to prevent Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) in middle and high school aged children through awareness, education, screening and action. The vision of the Foundation is to expose SCA as a grave health risk affecting young people. We believe that SCA occurs more frequently in our middle and high school aged children than reported; that screenings must be standardized in all of our schools and required for children who play organized sports; that cardiac screenings are a necessary procedure to identify heart abnormalities which often leads to SCA. The Andrew Ortega Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization. We adhere to the core values of functioning with honesty and integrity, and our activities are focused on making a difference in our communities. Nothing less is acceptable.
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