A True Heart Hero


The number-one killer among healthy young athletes is sudden cardiac arrest. Every three days someone suffers from it, and each year more than 400,000 people die from it. When someone goes into cardiac arrest, an electrical shock provided by an automated external defibrillator, or AED, is an effective treatment along with CPR -- but only if it is quickly done.

After hearing Michael Ellsessar’s story, a 16-year-old who died of Sudden Cardiac Arrest in 2010 after getting hit in the chest during a football game and then Tyler Symes’ story who was struck by a hockey puck four weeks later and survived suffered sudden cardiac arrest, Grace Soultanian, 12, of Shirley decided to do something. The difference in Michael and Tyler’s stories was the availability of an AED. There are no warning signs for sudden cardiac arrest, allowing any athlete to be at risk.

Through essay contests, grants and fundraising, Grace has raised more than $5,000 to purchase AEDs to be placed at playing fields, town beaches and town pools in the Ayer-Shirley area. Making sure what happened to Michael will not happen in Ayer or Shirley, Grace began her Youth Venture project last fall and decided that educating the area about sudden cardiac arrest would be her focus. She decided to name it "Heartstrong," and she raised more than $2,200 on her website with two friends. Parent Heart Watch hosted an essay contest where the prize was an AED. Grace decided to enter a story about Michael Ellsessar and why his story touched her so deeply. Her essay placed among the top three nationally, and went on to win the contest. She won an AED and other goods worth $2,000.

Grace is unstoppable, she has won additional grants, and has organized bake sales and sold wristbands for the cause, she has worked with the coaches to get them CPR-certified and she is always working on raising awareness about heart health. Grace also came and shared her story at our annual Heart on the Hill event. She will be testifying in support of AEDs in Schools in front of the Joint Committee of Public Health next week. After a year, Grace has donated AEDs to Sandy Pond Beach in Ayer and Taylor Field in Shirley. Next month she will donate one to Ayer's Pirone Park and plans to keep going.  Grace will show at 12 she is able to place AEDs in critical need places, our elected officials should easily be able to do the same!

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