Four years ago, 19-year-old Peyton Walker of Mechanicsburg was getting ready to go to work at a hospital emergency room. She was studying to be a physician’s assistant at Kings College in Wilkes-Barre and was earning clinical hours.
Then the unthinkable happened.
“I saw the priests standing there and I knew. We found out that Peyton had passed from sudden cardiac arrest. We didn’t get a chance to say goodbye,” said Peyton’s mom, Julie Walker.
Peyton had a genetic heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Although she was on medication, she still died from SCA. Her heart’s electrical system was not working properly.
What Julie learned after Peyton’s death troubled her deeply.
“We knew Peyton had an issue. What about the families and all these kids walking around with undiagnosed heart issues they don’t know about?” Walker said.
From the Trinity High school graduate’s death, the Peyton Walker foundation was born. Walker has made it her mission to raise funds to make sure kids get an EKG during free heart screenings. EKGs can detect underlying electrical issues with the heart.
The foundation also offers free AEDs to schools and the community.
“With all the advances in medicine, why aren’t we doing a better job for our kids and taking care of their hearts and making sure they’re OK?” Walker said.
February is Heart Month. Sudden cardiac arrest is the number one killer of student-athletes in the United States. Every three days, a student dies from it. The warning signs include dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath, and chest pain.
For more information about the Peyton Walker Foundation or free heart screenings, go to www.peytonwalker.org.