A mother’s mission to prevent sudden cardiac arrest in youth– SHIKA HERSHEL

Things turn out the best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.” These powerful words reflect the way 16-year-old Zachary Schrah viewed life. Not long after expressing these thoughts in a school essay, Zachary’s life took a tragic turn. On April 2, 2009, Zachary suddenly collapsed during a typical workout with the Plano East Panther football team. Zachary died of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM),which is a common cause of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). HCM is seen in young adults — specifically athletes — where the heart muscle thickens and the thickening can make the heart tissue obstruct the blood flow from the heart. Zachary had no warning signs or prior symptoms.

“He never complained about chest paints or shortness of breath,” says Kim Jones, Zachary’s aunt. “He played sports since pee-wee football, and we never knew anything was wrong.”

Zachary was the all-American teen who loved hunting and fishing and dreamed of going to the University of Texas to become a doctor. Zachary was healthy, fit, and played offensive lineman. In the wake of his death, Karen Schrah, Zachary’s mother, started Living for Zachary, a non-profit organization to help prevent SCA in youth.

“My biggest motivator was to raise awareness to prevent this from happening to other families and to try to save lives,” Karen says. “I wanted to do whatever I could to prevent the pain and the loss of another child.

“Living for Zachary advocates for community education, youth heart screenings, scholarships and the donation of Automated External De-fibrillators (AEDs) to youth-based organizations.

“We want to get the word out so that no other family experiences what my sister Karen has experienced,” Kim says.

The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano has supported Living for Zachary from the beginning. With the direction of the hospital’s physicians and staff, the Living for Zachary Heart Screening Program was created and provides special heart screenings for young adults ages 12 to 22. These tests can help detect heart abnormalities that may lead to sudden cardiac arrest.Today, Living for Zachary has provided more than 5,000 youth heart screenings and certified 909 people in the American Heart Association HeartSaver CPR/AED course. Living for Zachary has also donated more than 185 AEDs to youth organizations in Texas. This life-saving device plays a crucial role in resuscitating someone that has collapsed due to sudden cardiac arrest.

The UR Hope Foundation supports Living for Zachary via volunteers and financial support. Through this partnership, AEDs have been donated to the Ring of Hope Boxing Club — a place for the youth of East Dallas and The Colony to build physical and spiritual discipline through mentorship.

Through the grief, Karen has a hope and a purpose that drives her forward to honor Zachary ‘s legacy.

“This was God’s plan and there was so much purpose behind Zachary’s life,” Karen says.The 2017 Living for Zachary HeartBeats Run is November 4 at Oak Point Nature Preserve.For more information visit livingforzachary.org