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This Team Has Lots Of Heart

Posted Feb 2, 2018

Although Simon Sudman lived for just three months, the brevity of his life sparked a lasting movement that helps ensure the well-being of children in the Greater Philadelphia area.

In 2004, Simon unsuspectingly passed away while taking a nap one afternoon. He was initially diagnosed with (SIDS) Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. His parents, Darren and Phyllis Sudman, were later advised by a pediatrician to have their hearts checked. As it turned out, the results showed that Phyllis was diagnosed with Long QT Syndrome - a condition linked with 15 percent of all sudden infant deaths and one of the conditions connected with sudden cardiac arrest in children.

From that moment on, Darren and Phyllis sought to emphasize the significance of having frequent heart checkups at all ages. And in 2005, Simon’s Heart (formerly known as Simon’s Fund) was born.

The foundation’s mission reads, “to save the life of one child ... and then another, by raising awareness about conditions that lead to sudden cardiac arrest and death.” One of its goals is to extinguish the unsettling reality that once an infant leaves the hospital the same individual doesn’t typically receive another heart screening until their 50s. Darren and Phyllis have taken multiple steps to shake this trend.

Since the organization provided its first heart screening in 2005, Simon’s Heart has screened nearly 16,000 children and helped over 105 heart conditions. In 2012, the foundation helped the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act get passed in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania which requires parents and student-athletes to learn about the risks of cardiac arrest and train coaches to detect similar symptoms. Simon’s Heart is also responsible for several other initiatives.

“We have built a digital registry to help promote research among pediatric cardiology. We have launched a craft-building website to get automated external defibrillators (AEDs) into places where kids learn and play and we do a lot of awareness campaigns with the collegiate and professional sports teams in the city including the Eagles to make sure it sparks fans and sports players at the youth level know that sudden cardiac arrest isn’t just an adult thing,” Darren says.

Back in December, Darren donated an AED device to the Barring House Crisis Nursery in Philadelphia. The facility that served around 6,000 families per year was without a device and the contribution was sorely needed. Defensive tackle Beau Allen took a trip down to the center and presented Darren with two tickets for him and Phyllis to attend this year’s Super Bowl. The Eagles organization along with Allen found the couple undoubtedly deserving.

“Simon’s Fund is an organization that helps out children with congenital heart defects and that hits home for me because I have a congenital heart defect,” Allen says. “(Darren) does a lot of great work in our community and a lot of awesome stuff so we want to give back to him.”

The Sudman couple leaves for Minneapolis on Friday morning. Darren attends a handful of Eagles games each year. Phyllis grew up in the Philadelphia area and her father, Harry, has been a Season Ticket Member his whole life. The experience will be one to remember.

“It went from an unbelievably amazing gesture to just a ridiculous experience. I know that the Eagles are one of the most popular brands in our country and the thought that they would think highly enough about me to give me something that is so coveted is just very humbling," Darren says.

“And then to find out three weeks later that I’m going to be able to see them play for something that they’ve only done a few times before in the history of the franchise, it’s just unbelievable.”

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