Heart Conditions Are Not Just for the Elderly

Emilie Purcelli

Each year an estimated 325,000 people die in the United States from sudden cardiac arrest. The Heart Rhythm Society estimates about 7,000 of these deaths involve children and infants. 

On Aug. 30, 1997, my seemingly healthy 22-year-old daughter, Emilie, died suddenly in her sleep from sudden cardiac arrest.

We immediately began to ask ourselves, how a beautiful, healthy young woman, could possibly just go to bed and die in such a mysterious manner. To say we were in shock or grief-stricken would hardly describe the scenario with any justice. An autopsy showed no real cause of death other than “acute cardiac arrhythmia.” Her toxicology report was negative. The medical examiner offered our family no other information as to a cause of death.

Our only clue was on her second day of life, she had been observed having a “seizure,” and one nurse told us she appeared somewhat “blue.” She was found to have a slightly low calcium level, and was treated with IV calcium with no further problems or explanation.

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