17 children die everyday from hidden heart conditions a Colorado nonprofit wants to change that

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO/KJCT)-- A retired fire paramedic from Denver is saving lives in a new way. He runs a non-profit that helps kids detect a hidden danger in their heart before they realize it's a problem.

17 children die everyday from sudden heart attacks, that’s according to the American Heart Association.

Richard Perse founded Heart Smart and the nonprofit Play with Heart. They provide training and donate Automated External Defibrillators or AED's to businesses across Colorado.

"The whole purpose is to find any hidden heart conditions so we catch them and fix it before you're going to a funeral,” said Richard Perse, founder and president of Heart Smart.

He held a cardiac screening in Grand Junction, screening dozens of students.

"Well I heard it from a friend that he was doing this we both play baseball and he said it's a good thing for athletes so I decided to come just in case if something was wrong,” said Joseph Zoller, sophomore at Central High School.

Richard says the pre-participation sports physicals that kids are expected to get during high school are inadequate.

“The stethoscope is 200 year old technology … Daniel was a 16 year old swimmer at high school in West Minister he had three sports physicals and he still collapsed from a hidden heart condition and died and this cardiac screen would have probably picked that up and they would have fixed him before they had to bury him,” said Perse.

On August 3rd they held an EKG screening and donated an AED to the Linsacum Training Institute in Grand Junction. They partnered St. Mary's Hospital to provide these free EKG tests.

"The early screening we do isn't going to catch everything but if we can catch any of the electrical abnormalities than that's what we are trying to prevent,” said Sarah Herrera, Clinical Exercise Physiologist at St. Mary’s Hospital.

The Grand Junction Fire Department was also there providing training on AED's and CPR.

Play with Heart has donated almost 200 AED's across Colorado and they've already saved three lives.

"We saved three kids, a 12 year old in Colorado Springs a 14 year old 8th grader at Swing school in La Junta at basketball practice and then a 14 year old right fielder at Thompson High School in Loveland and it was with one of our Play with Heart AED’s and training coaches that saved those kids,” said Perse.

Richard says an EKG screening would normally cost at least 500 to 700 dollars if you go to a private cardiology group.

He hopes to make this screening and AED donation an annual event on the Western Slope.

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