SAN DIEGO — Eric Paredes died of sudden cardiac arrest 14 years ago Sunday.

“He was really into sports. He was a wrestler. By the time he got into high school, he still played football,” his father Hector Paredes said. 

When Eric died, there was very little awareness about cardiac arrest in children, but his parents have made it their mission to change that by founding the Eric Paredes “Save A Live Foundation” dedicated to educating everyone: parents, coaches administrators about recognizing signs, the need to act fast, what exactly to do and most importantly providing free heart screenings several times a year. 

“In a community like ours, the United States, that we don’t have early detection to heart screenings early detection to know the warning signs of sudden, cardiac arrest, that something that our foundation has been working with local state and national organizations to try and promote,” Hector said.

And they are moving the needle. Having screened more than 40,000 young people – ages 12 to 2.  Of those 1% were found to have some sort of underlying heart condition. Recent studies found 1 in 300 kids screen were flagged with having a have a heart issue. 

According to Dr. Eric Adler, a cardiologist with UCSD Health, it’s often unseen until it too late, “many times you don’t know about it because they are not doing extreme sports that puts them at risk to dying suddenly.”

And sadly because they are not typically screened, 50% of warning signs, like fainting, lightheadedness and vertigo go unnoticed, or misdiagnosed as dehydration.

Adler says one of the most important takeaways for parents is to be a strong advocate for their child and not dismiss symptoms.

“Be an active listener. Sometimes in sport we see it again and again where a kid’s complaint is dismissed like, ‘Oh suck it up, when actually something is really going on,’” Adler said.

Insurance does not cover the cost of and EKG as a routine test, but it only costs $79 out of pocket. Save a Life Foundation will hold a free screening in August and again in September.