Sigma Delta Tau (SDT) is proud to announce that Phyllis Satinsky Sudman is the 2014 Alumnna of the Year, honored for her work in launching and maintaining Simon’s Fund, an organization which raises awareness about sudden cardiac arrest death in children. The award was presented to Phyllis on Saturday, June 28, 2014, during the Sigma Delta Tau National Convention in Alexandria, Va. (Read Phyllis’s moving acceptance speech.)
After graduating from Ohio State University, where she was a member of SDT’s Gamma Chapter, Phyllis said her life went according to plan; she got a job, got married (to her college boyfriend), and began her family. In 2004, they welcomed their second child, Simon, who was a seemingly healthy boy who smiled for the first time at seven weeks. But at only three months old, Simon passed away. It was a difficult time for the entire family.
Shortly following Simon’s death, Phyllis and her husband, Darren had heart exams and Phyllis was diagnosed with a heart condition called Long QT Syndrome, an arrhythmia. It turns out that this condition is responsible for up to 15% of all SIDS deaths. Her condition is now being treated with a beta blocker and she credits Simon for saving her life.
In addition to the startling statistical association with SIDS, sudden cardiac arrest is the number one cause of death in student athletes, taking thousands of lives each year. Armed with this knowledge, Phyllis and Darren chose to start Simon’s Fund. With the support of Simon’s Fund, more than 10,000 families have had their children screened, and more than 65 have discovered heart conditions. Their ultimate goal is to have every child scanned for potential conditions which can lead to sudden cardiac arrest. Darren serves as the Executive Director and Phyllis serves on the Executive Committee.
One of the children to benefit from this amazing program is Melissa, the daughter of Lori Marion Fair, an SDT alumna from Phi chapter at Penn State. Melissa was diagnosed with a congenital birth defect, a hole in her heart, and had her open heart surgery on the second anniversary of Simon’s death. “What we faced was so scary, but they saved her life,” said Lori. Through this experience, Lori and her husband, Ken, became more involved with Simon’s Fund, and Ken now serves on the Executive Committee.
In addition to funding heart screenings, Simon’s Fund is responsible for the passage of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act, a law which raises awareness about the risk and warning signs of sudden cardiac arrest. The Act has three primary components:
- Parents of student athletes in the public school system must review and sign an information sheet about the warning signs and conditions of sudden cardiac arrest.
- Coaches must take an annual online training course about sudden cardiac arrest.
- Coaches must remove any player from competition who exhibits symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest, and the player may not return to play until cleared by a licensed medical professional
The Act was first passed in Pennsylvania on May 30, 2012, and has since passed into law in New Jersey, Indiana, Connecticut and Maryland, and is pending in five other states.
Sigma Delta Tau was honored to have Phyllis and her entire family, along with Lori and Ken Fair, in attendance at the Alumnae Banquet during National Convention. “We hope her story empowers others to learn more about sudden cardiac arrest and take action to help protect children through screenings and by supporting the passage of the Act within their states,” said Caren Silverman, national Vice President of Alumnae Relations on the Board of Directors. “It was an honor to have Phyllis with us and to have an opportunity to hear from her.”
Phyllis lives just outside of Philadelphia with Darren and their children, Sally and Jaden. She is the Director of Client Services for eBay Enterprise.
For more information about Simons Fund and the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act, please visit www.simonsfund.org.