by Len Lear
We reported in our Dec. 4 issue that Lafayette Hill resident Phyllis Sudman had been selected as one of the 10 2014 “Women of Worth” honorees by L’Oréal Paris for her outstanding work with Simon’s Fund, a non-profit she had co-founded after her 3-month-old son, Simon, died of sudden cardiac arrest. The 10 honorees had been selected out of 4,300 women who were nominated from all over the country.
As if that were not enough of an honor, L’Oreal Paris asked women all over the country to vote on their website for the one of 10 finalists they thought was most worthy of “National Woman of Worth” award. After the three-week voting period, the votes were tabulated, and the winner was none other than Phyllis Sudman!
As a result, Simon’s Fund will receive $35,000 from L’Oreal Paris, which will be used to check hearts and save lives. “Phyllis also became a part of two very special families,” a L’Oreal Paris spokesperson told the Local. “The L’Oreal corporate family will be a resource as Simon’s Fund works toward fulfilling their mission. The Women of Worth family will keep us grounded and inspire us to strive for greatness. This is a family of courageous, selfless and passionate women who channeled challenge, adversity and/or tragedy to improve the lives of others in their communities.”
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. To date, Simon’s Fund has provided over 10,000 free heart screenings to students in the Greater Philadelphia area. The L’Oreal award will enable the fund to provide many more screenings. Of those tested by Simon’s Fund, more than 100 students have discovered potentially fatal heart conditions.
“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.”
Phyllis Sudman 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.
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.
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.