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Be “Kynd” to Your Heart
JENNIFER SARMENTO · BUSINESS OPERATIONS ANALYST · UNITED STATES
February 22, 2018, began like any other day in our house. After our usual breakfast routine, my college freshman son, Kyle — or “Ky” as his friends call him — and my daughter, Allison, a junior in high school, headed off to school.
That afternoon, I was working from home when Kyle returned from his classes at the local community college. We chatted about his day. Since he didn’t have school the next day, he was going to a friend’s house in Santa Cruz to hang out and would be home the next day.
He grabbed a bag of clothes gave me a quick kiss and said, “Love you, Mom,” and walked out the door. Something he had done a hundred times before.
Later that night, I was out walking with some friends when I received the call that would change my life forever.
It was Kyle’s friend calling to tell me that Kyle was found unconscious, not breathing, and was being rushed to the local hospital.
The next couple of hours were a blur. I know I called my husband to come get me, and the next thing I remember is walking into the emergency room to see my 18-year-old son being worked on by many doctors and nurses. They managed to stabilize him and transferred him to the intensive care unit.
Once in ICU, we were told that Kyle had suffered a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).
We were in shock and numb. How could this be? He is a healthy, active 18-year-old kid with no known heart issues. This isn’t supposed to happen.
All of our family and friends prayed that Kyle would wake up and be okay.
On February 24, 2018, two days after seeing his smile and hearing him say, “I love you, Mom,” we found out that Kyle would not survive. I had to say goodbye to my son.
I returned home completely numb and in shock. I was also angry and upset.
What Is SCA?
How could this happen to someone so young? Someone who took care of himself and did all the right things?
I had never heard of someone as young as Kyle dying from sudden cardiac arrest. I started researching SCA and found it is more common than people think.
One of the first things I learned was that SCA is not a heart attack. A heart attack is when the blood flow to the heart is blocked. A sudden cardiac arrest is a change to the structural part of the heart or an electrical malfunction which causes the heart to stop.
How common is SCA in young people ages 12 to 25? The statistics are shocking. Here are just a few:
- Every three days, a student-athlete* dies from SCA in the U.S.
- 1 in 300 youth have an undiagnosed heart condition that puts them at risk of SCA.
- SCA is the No. 1 cause of death on school campuses.
- SCA is the No. 1 cause of death of student-athletes.
(*Any youth that spends 4 to 8 hours a week doing physical activity is considered a student-athlete.)
My children have always had their annual physicals, and Kyle had a checkup four months before he passed. So, as far as I was aware, both of my children were fit and healthy.
These numbers and the fact that I had not heard of this before alarmed me. I learned that SCA cannot be detected with the standard medical physicals that our children receive. It can only be discovered through heart screening, an electrocardiogram — ECG or EKG — or an echocardiogram.
My husband, daughter, and I decided we had to do something in our community to build awareness about SCA.
We started a foundation in Kyle’s honor, called the Kyle J. Taylor Foundation. The foundation provides awareness of SCA in youth, how SCA can be prevented and detected. Our goal is to provide free youth heart screenings.
The Cisco Bond: You’re Never Alone
It has been a blessing to work for Cisco for 21 years. In all the years I have been here, it has continued its core value that we are a family.
My family wouldn't have been able to get through losing Kyle without the unwavering support I received.
My manager immediately got on the phone with HR and our benefits departments to handle my bereavement paperwork. My coworker jumped on a plane to San Jose from RTP to cover an important meeting for me. Our SVP called me from the airport offering any help he could. And Chuck Robbins sent me a personal note to offer his support.
I share our story so other employees know when you are going through tough times, you are not alone.
Cisco is here to support you.
A Month for Remembrance and Awareness
February is American Heart Health Month. On the first anniversary of Kyle’s sudden cardiac arrest, I hope that by telling my story I can emphasize the fact that heart conditions can happen at any age so your family can avoid the indescribable loss of a child from SCA.
The loss of my son is the hardest thing I have ever experienced in my life. I am using my love for Kyle to build awareness and make a difference by helping others.
Kyle was a loving, smart, kind, funny, and humble young man who had so much to give to life. I want to spread his energy though our foundation so he can continue to make a difference in other lives just as he did when he was here with us.
If you would like more information about our foundation or sudden cardiac arrest in youth, please visit our website, kylejtaylor.org.
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