by Len Lear
Lafayette Hill resident Phyllis Sudman has been selected as one of the 2014 “Women of Worth” honorees by L’Oréal Paris for her outstanding work with Simon’s Fund, a non-profit she co-founded after her 3-month-old son, Simon, died of sudden cardiac arrest.
Phyllis and her husband, Darren, both 40-ish, started Simon’s Fund to raise awareness of the warning signs and conditions that lead to sudden cardiac arrest and death in children. Phyllis is one of 10 women from across the country to receive the prestigious “Women of Worth” award this month in acknowledgment of her charitable efforts and perseverance in making a difference in the community.
As a 2014 “Women of Worth” honoree, Phyllis will receive $10,000 for her charitable cause and was acknowledged at a distinguished awards ceremony hosted by L’Oréal Paris on Dec. 2 in New York. You can support Phyllis and her important cause by voting now for her to become the National Honoree and recipient of an additional $25,000.
You can cast your vote daily at WomenofWorth.com by using your email address or Facebook. You can log-in to log-on and vote for an honoree: L’Oréal Paris’ Facebook by clicking “Like” on the post and photo about your favorite Woman of Worth; or L’Oréal Paris’ Twitter by re-tweeting the tweet about the Woman of Worth you support.
“It is such a great feeling to be recognized by L’Oréal Paris as one of their 2014 Women of Worth for the work I am doing to raise awareness of heart conditions in children,” said Sudman. “This generous donation will allow us to screen more children, alert more people to risk factors and ultimately save more lives.”
“Each year, we are moved and inspired by the thousands of powerful stories we receive through the Women of Worth nomination process,” said L’Oréal Paris President, Karen T. Fondu, last week. “These women are wielding their passion to make an incredible impact on their communities and beyond.”
Phyllis Sudman, co-founder of Simon’s Fund, experienced a heartbreaking loss when her son, Simon, died unexpectedly in his sleep at 14 weeks old. Following his death, Phyllis’ physicians urged her to get her heart checked, and she discovered she had a heart condition called Long QT Syndrome, a condition that is linked to up to 15 percent of all SIDS deaths.
As Phyllis dealt with her grief, she pledged to spare other families from enduring similar tragedies. She co-founded Simon’s Fund with her husband to raise awareness about the warning signs and conditions that can lead to sudden cardiac arrest and death in children.
Since starting Simon’s Fund, Phyllis has helped organize heart screenings for over 10,000 students. Of those tested, more than 100 students have discovered potentially fatal heart conditions.
In 2005, Simon was born to Darren and Phyllis Sudman. He weighed six pounds, 15 ounces at birth, and had an APGAR score of eight and nine. (This is a quick test performed on a baby at one and five minutes after birth. The one-minute score determines how well the baby tolerated the birthing process.)
Every few hours he would finish a bottle, except for a four-hour stretch overnight. In other words, he seemed to be perfectly normal. However, at seven weeks of age, Simon smiled for the first time, and 47 days later he died.
By all signs, Simon Sudman appeared to be healthy and normal, but his heart had a tiny unknown defect called Long QT Syndrome. His parents had never heard of this condition before, let alone known that Phyllis also had the condition. Many people think that sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is strictly an adult phenomenon, but the fact is that SCA is the number one killer of student athletes. It is also responsible for up to 15% of all sudden infant deaths, according to a study conducted by Dr. Michael Ackerman at the Mayo Clinic.
Simon was one of thousands of children to die of sudden cardiac arrest in 2005. Some were babies, and others were high school athletes. When children are born in the U.S., they receive a battery of genetic tests as recommended by the American College of Medical Genetics, but they are not tested for the conditions that may lead to SCA.
Instead of retreating into a shell of self-absorption and solitude, which would have been understandable, the Sudmans decided to do everything in their power to keep other children from suffering the same fate as Simon.
So in 2005 they established Simon’s Fund in memory of Simon. They have raised more than $1 million since then, and thanks to the funds the Sudmans have raised, the organization is able to provide free heart screenings to children, primarily in the Greater Philadelphia area.
The fund organizes and facilitates the screenings with medical teams. They also sponsor medical research projects, host awareness events and work with major medical institutions. The Sudmans not only have been educating parents about the need for their children to be heart-screened, but they also worked tirelessly to get the Pennsylvania State Legislature to pass the nation’s first law to protect student athletes’ hearts.
Called the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Act, it officially became law on May 29, 2012, when it was signed by Gov. Tom Corbett. As a result of the Sudmans’ efforts, a similar law has now been passed in five other states. The legislation requires coaches to remove any student athlete who exhibits signs or symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest such as dizziness, fainting, chest pains, etc., while participating in an athletic event. If the student athlete has a history of these symptoms at any time prior to or following an athletic activity, he or she cannot return to participation until evaluated and cleared in writing by a licensed physician or certified registered nurse.
For more information about Simon’s Fund, call 610-662-6948, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Simon’s Fund, PO Box 61, Lafayette Hill, PA 19444.