U.S. Rep. Sean Casten's Family Says His Teenage Daughter Gwen Died of Sudden Cardiac Arrhythmia

Gwen Casten, 17, was found unresponsive in her family's Illinois home on June 13

Gwen Casten, daughter of Rep. Sean Casten
Gwen Casten. Photo: VoteCasten/Twitter

The family of Illinois Rep. Sean Casten said in a statement Friday that his 17-year-old daughter, Gwen Casten, died of sudden cardiac arrhythmia.

Gwen was found unresponsive in her family's Illinois home on June 13.

In the family's statement, posted to Sean's Instagram page, the Casten family explained that "in layman's terms, she was fine, and then her heart stopped," adding: "We don't know what caused the arrhythmia, and likely never will."

"Gwen was a healthy 2022 teenager," the statement read, noting that she "ate well, exercised, got regular check-ups, didn't suffer from any behavioral health issues, and had close relationships with family and friends."

The family said that she was fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and "quarantined after occasional positive, asymptomatic COVID tests during the omicron wave." At the time of her death, they added, "She had just come home from an evening with friends, went to bed and didn't wake up."

They continued, "We are heartbroken, but we are not unique. Sudden, unexplained heart-failure among young, healthy people is rare but real. We are left grasping at the wrong end of random chance."

The family went on to thank those who offered condolences following Gwen's death. "We've cried again over each of your letters, messages, meals, and flowers, but they are appreciated," they wrote, adding that they are also "grateful" for donations to the Downers Grove North Friends of Fine Arts and March for Our Lives, causes that Gwen was actively involved in.

"It is a comfort to know how many lives Gwen touched over her 17 years," the statement said. "She had a big, beautiful, kind, loving heart. And it stopped, as all must.

"None of us know when our last heartbeat will come. The best we can hope for is that when our loved ones do pass, we will have no regrets about the time we were lucky enough to share," it concluded. "So hug the folks you love a little harder today. Be present in their lives. And spread your love a little farther. Because in the end, it's all that remains."

Sean, who was elected in 2018, shared the news of his daughter's death in a statement posted to Twitter on June 13: "This morning, Congressman Casten's beloved daughter, Gwen (17), passed away. The Casten family requests privacy, and we will be issuing no further comment during this heartbreaking time."

The Chicago-Tribune previously reported that Downers Grove police were called to a home in the area "for an unresponsive seventeen year old female," where "first responders determined that the subject was deceased."

The Castens released a longer statement on June 15 that was signed by Sean, his wife Kara and his other teenage daughter Audrey.

"When she got home, she said goodnight to Kara and I, texted a friend to make sure she got home OK, and didn't wake up on Monday morning," the congressman shared. "The only thing we know about her death is that it was peaceful. And the only lesson we can take from that is to savor the moments you have with your loved ones."

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In that statement, Sean also shared a photo of Gwen with a message to those who have expressed their condolences.

"We are grateful to all who have reached out with thoughts, condolences and help. To all asking what they can do, we ask only that you live your lives as Gwen lived hers," he wrote.

"There are no words to describe the hole in your heart when a child dies. Gwen was a happy, healthy, well-adjusted young woman," the statement said, adding that Gwen planned to study environmental science at the University of Vermont this fall.

The family's statement noted that Gwen was the founder of her high school's Empowerment Club, which focused "on everything from gun violence prevention to environmental protection to LGBTQ allyship to organizing Black Lives Matter rallies to registering students to vote."

It continued: "She had the good fortune to have a community of good friends, teachers and family and the good wisdom to realize how much she owed them. If her light seemed a bit brighter than most it was because she was so generous in reflecting back the light and love that so many gave to her."

"We want purpose. We want to believe in a brighter tomorrow," the statement read. "But the only thing we can control is our present."

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