Six years after losing her preteen daughter to an undetected heart condition, Jenine Dalrymple is about to launch her latest effort in preventing more such deaths.
Dalrymple’s Andra Heart Foundation on Thursday evening will kick off the inaugural Andra Heart Speaker Series. The event will feature a free dinner, cash bar and a free lecture from a Mayo Clinic cardiologist known nationally for his research into sudden cardiac death in young people.
Pediatric cardiologist Dr. Michael J. Ackerman, director of the Windland Smith Rice Sudden Death Genomics Laboratory at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., will talk at 7 p.m. at the Fox Theatre downtown.
The speaker series is the Andra Heart Foundation’s newest project to raise awareness and foster better prevention and intervention into sudden cardiac arrest in children and teens, particularly in young athletes.
Dalrymple’s daughter, Andra Jane Dalrymple, died unexpectedly on Oct. 23, 2010. She was 12. The cause was an undetected heart condition .
“Over the years, the awareness, activities and actions of Jenine’s group has continued to grow, touching more and more individuals.” said Dr. Scott Klewer, division chief of pediatric cardiology at the University of Arizona and a cardiologist at Banner-University Medical Center Tucson.
“When tragedies strike with a sudden cardiac death event, there always seems to be a rush to the cause — that we have to do everything we can so it doesn’t happen again,”
“But in the absence of an amazing organizer or individual like Jenine, it’s not sustained.”
Another local Banner pediatric cardiologist — Dr. Brent Barber — initially approached Dalrymple with the idea of a visiting lecture series, based on a similarly successful program at the University of Oregon. The idea is that Ackerman’s public lecture will draw in school nurses, athletic coaches and parents from throughout the Tucson area.
Ackerman will also be doing medical education with local health providers. On Friday — the day after the public lecture — he’ll spend the day with fellows, residents and other physicians at Banner-University Medical Center Tucson and at the UA’s Sarver Heart Center — both entities that are partnering with Dalrymple on the speaker series.
“For sudden cardiac death in pediatrics, he (Ackerman) is the recognized expert,” Klewer said. “I have heard him talk at some of the national meetings and this is a subject he eats, sleeps and breathes. He has thought a lot about it and has good pearls to share.”
Klewer says sudden cardiac death in children and teens is fairly rare, “but not rare enough.”
In Southern Arizona, he said, there are typically one or two such deaths per year. Usually it’s a previously healthy teen who goes into cardiac arrest doing some kind of sporting event, he said.
On average, every three days in the U.S. a competitive athlete experiences a sudden cardiac death, a 2012 article in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation says.
Andra’s death occurred two days after she went into cardiac arrest as she left the field after trying out for the Flowing Wells Junior High School soccer team.
The cause of her death was a rare congenital heart defect called Long QT Syndrome, which causes a sudden and dangerous abnormal heartbeat and in some cases, death.
The Dalrymple family has since found out that both dad, Philip, and Andra’s younger sister, Grace, 16, have Long QT Syndrome.
The condition can be managed with medication and restricting activity One of the things Jenine learned is that hydration is good for heart health, and Grace has become more mindful of drinking lots of water.
To that end the Andra Heart Foundation this year donated hydration stations and water bottles to Flowing Wells Junior High. Andra was in seventh grade at the school at the time of her death.
The foundation has done numerous other projects to promote heart health and to help local students, including holding heart screenings in the Flowing Wells school district, and donating automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to schools and other organizations.
Screenings of 3,400 students have turned up cases of Long QT Syndrome, and students with Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, which is a congenital heart condition involving an extra electrical pathway in the heart. In rare instances, it can cause death.
Dalrymple says she wants nothing more than to mobilize the Tucson community so that if there is a sudden cardiac event, the child’s life may be saved.
“I just want schools to be prepared and be aware of cardiac arrest in students,” Dalrymple said. “If someone has to run from the field to the office to get help and it takes more than three minutes, it’s not good enough.”