Could we have prevented it?

Could we have prevented it?

Our son Johannes died of sudden, inexplicable cardiac arrest. He appeared in excellent health, was without vices, and was alert to health issues.

Could we have prevented it? Probably not. There were, however, two faint foreshadows:

  1. On a routine telephone call to us earlier that week, he said that his chronic stomach ache was not related to his South American travels; he had recently self-diagnosed it as lactose intolerance. Both folklore and modern medicine teach us that heart problems are often misdiagnosed and mistreated as stomach problems. Not likely, we've been assured by a local cardiologist, but we wonder. His death wasn't very likely either.

  2. Some time in the previous six months he mentioned that he had fainted. He brushed it off and we cannot recall what he said about it. In hindsight, this was a clue we should have pursued. In 2002 it came out that the best noninvasive predictor of sudden cardiac arrest in young athletes is exercise-related fainting (syncope). He had fainted once before, about eight years earlier. If he had fainted more than twice he would have told us.

Cardiac arrest, while rare in young people, does occur, and is particularly studied in athletes. In hindsight it is easy to say the condition might have been screened for and identified in time. Jos belonged to Gold's Gym, and came from it in the half hour preceding his death. Perhaps such health and exercise clubs could provide a treadmill test to direct their patrons to a cardiologist?

See Causes of sudden death in young athletes.

His heart beat becomes quite stong beginning about 0:30 although you may need an audio system with good bass (earphones or external speakers).

Visit Parent Heartwatch.

Visit the amazing Life of Jos Claerbout