WALLINGFORD — Cardiac arrest survivor Mike Papale is raising awareness about the importance of early detection of heart conditions through his In A Heartbeat Foundation.
The foundation provided free heart screening Sunday at the Parks and Recreation Center. All visitors underwent an electrocardiogram test, which can detect cardiac abnormalities.
Children as young as 10 attended.
“There are a lot of different opinions... but the younger you can find out that something is wrong, the better the chances are of figuring out what it is and staying safe,” said Papale.
Papale experienced sudden cardiac arrest at 17 while coaching basketball. There was no automated external defibrillator (AED) on-site but an EMT working nearby was able to get to him in time, performing CPR for eight minutes and saving his life.
“Luckily, [an EMT] was working right next door in a different building,” Papale says on the Foundation website. “He left work without anyone noticing and ran over to where I was. By the time he got to me, I had turned blue and was taking my last agonal breaths. He gave me CPR perfectly, saving my life (as well as my brain).”
When the ambulance arrived, they used an AED to restart Papale’s heart and put it into a normal rhythm.
The incident thwarted Papale’s dream of becoming a college basketball player but he pursued his new mission — raising awareness of sudden cardiac arrest and the importance of CPR and AEDs.
Since its establishment in 2015, the In A Heartbeat Foundation has helped many people get checked for heart abnormalities and provided AEDs and emergency training to many organizations.
“When someone goes into a cardiac arrest, getting the right help is extremely time-critical,” said Papale. “If the AED is not used within a couple of minutes, the chances of survival drop greatly.”
The screenings offered on Sunday took about 15 minutes from the moment of arrival, said foundation volunteer Sean Hitchcock.
During the ECG procedure, electrodes are placed on the chest to record the heart's electrical signals. Then, the visitor waits for the results in a separate room.
A sixteen-year-old Coginchaug High School basketball player, Ethan Sirois, emphasized the importance of detection of heart issues early.
“I heard about [Papale’s] story and I thought how important it is for people to have a chance to see if anything is wrong,” said Sirois. “I’m an athlete and I want to make sure that I’m okay and other people are okay as well.”
Another visitor, and a parent of two athletes, said it gives her “peace of mind” to know that “everything is ticking the way it should.”
“Now that my kids are older, I just drop them off at the gymnasium,” said Kim Bailey. “They both play a ton of sport and I want to be sure they’re safe when I’m away.”