"I feel determined to prevent another family from experiencing a similar tragedy," says Christy Silva
Aidan Silva was a friendly, gentle boy who loved to run fast. He was so healthy that at a well-child visit soon after he turned 7, his pediatrician gave him a high five, proclaiming an awesome bill of health.
Six weeks later, on Sept. 4, 2010, Aidan died while working on a puzzle in the middle of the day.
“I called his name and he didn’t respond,” recalls his mother Christy Silva, of Downingtown, Pennsylvania. “I looked in the hallway and he was on the floor on his side, his back was to me. And when I looked at his face, he was blue.”
Efforts to revive Aidan failed. An autopsy concluded that sudden cardiac arrest killed him, but doctors couldn’t figure out exactly what caused it.
“What most likely happened was that he had an arrhythmia from a genetic cause,” says Silva. “But no explanation has turned up yet.”
Nor is there a family history. “I feel determined,” says Silva, “to prevent another family from experiencing a similar tragedy.”
Silva co-founded Aidan’s Heart Foundation in 2013 and has provided free heart screenings to over 1,800 children and teens in southeastern Pennsylvania, since most doctors don’t routinely do them.
Twenty-three of the screenings have detected conditions that could potentially cause sudden cardiac arrest. According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the condition is the leading cause of death in young athletes, accounting for 75 percent of all athlete-related deaths.
More than 150 other screenings detected non-life threatening heart conditions, such as heart murmurs and high cholesterol.
The non-profit has also trained 5,500 Downingtown sixth-grade students hands-only CPR and how to use an automatic external defibrillator (AED).
Most of the hundreds of thousands of dollars that Silva has helped raise — through the annual 5K for Aidan J. race, private donors and a $35,000 grant from L’Oréal Paris after she was named its 2018 Woman of Worth National Honoree — has been used to purchase 82 AEDs for schools and dance and martial arts studios. (To vote for this year’s L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth honoree, click here. Voting ends on Nov. 15.)
“She’s done amazing work,” says Dr. Devyani Chowdhury, a pediatric cardiologist who with her staff volunteer to do the free heart screenings. “She has a huge effect.”
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Silva — a mom to three other children, ages five to 13 — also helped pass the new Aidan’s Law, which requires schools to report the condition of their AEDs to the state. It also provides aid to purchase the devices.
“I feel very strongly that I do what I do because Aiden is working through me,” says Silva. “There is no doubt in my mind that he gives me the strength and the courage to do this.”
“There are times when things are hard and I am upset that this has happened to our son and our family,” she continues. “But it also doubles down on my conviction to keep other kids safe.”