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Meet Rhina Paredes-Greeson of Eric Paredes Save A Life Foundation

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rhina Paredes-Greeson.

Rhina, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
My story begins when almost 9 years ago our family was getting ready to go on a big vacation to celebrate my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. My son Eric and I were home and were packing to go on this incredible cruise. I stepped out of the house to go to an appointment and I said goodbye to Eric not knowing that this was the last time I would see my son alive.

Eric’s dad, Hector, came home for lunch and in the span of 20 minutes from when I left and he came home, Eric had collapsed on our kitchen floor and died. Life changed that day forever. Eric was only 15 years old, a 2 sports athlete. Eric was a great kid. A few weeks later I got a call from the coroner that said that Eric had passed away from a fatal arrhythmia. My Eric had passed away from Sudden Cardiac Death.

A few months later when we were able to stand on our feet, we did so much research and learned that thousands of people die each year from Sudden Cardiac Death. We also learned that this is the # 1 killer of student-athletes, #2 cause of death under 25 years of age, the #1 killer on school campuses and that 9,500 youth are affected every year in the United States alone. We knew as parents that we needed to do something about this. We needed to prevent death on other kids and prevent parents from the nightmare of losing their precious children.

A year later, we created a 501 C 3 Non-profit organization called the Eric Paredes Save A Life Foundation. Where through awareness, education and action, our mission is to influence families, educators, elected officials and the medical community to recognize the incidence of youth SCA/D and the importance of preventative heart screenings, and to support equipping schools with automated external defibrillators (AED) plus CPR/AED training.

Our foundation performs 6 free screenings a year. It is volunteer-based from cardiologists from different hospitals to the community coming together to help at every cardiac screening where we perform free ECG’s and echocardiograms to teens ages 12 to 25 at different high schools in the county of San Diego.

We do this with the volunteer help from our primary medical adviser and cardiologist Dr. John Rogers. To date, we have screened over 26,000 teens and have identified over 200 of them with cardiac abnormalities that put them at risk for Sudden Cardiac Death. Some of this teens need open heart surgery right away after confirming the diagnosis through more testing. We have also identified over 400 teens with other cardiac abnormalities that might need follow up as well.

We have also changed legislation and created the Eric Paredes Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act where athletes will be taken out of play if they exhibit signs and symptoms of Sudden Cardiac Arrest. Coaches also have to watch a mandatory training video where they will learn S/S that could compromise a child. In summary, we are saving the lives of many San Diego teens. It is my honor to serve my community and it is my hope that my work is preventing other parents from my own nightmare.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Overall, it has been a smooth road. We have been welcomed by the community, parents, educators and the medical community. ECG’s are not part of the pre-participation sports physicals or well check-ups because health insurances still believe that Sudden Cardiac Death is rare. So by us providing it free of charge, we are filling a void. We are protecting our teens.

Please tell us about Eric Paredes Save A Life Foundation.
Through awareness, education and action, our mission is to influence families, educators, elected officials and the medical community to recognize the incidence of youth SCA/D and the importance of preventative heart screenings, and to support equipping schools with automated external defibrillators (AED) plus CPR/AED training.

I am most proud of the fact that we are saving lives. There are other foundations in the USA like ours but our screenings are FREE of charge to teens ages 12 to 25 years old.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
When I think of my childhood I think about being with my sisters and my parents in El Salvador at the beach. We would spend days at a time enjoying each other and playing games or riding horses. Being with my family…. that is what I most love about my childhood.

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