From the heart

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Woman shares daughter’s story, promotes CPR training

By Kacie Goode

Charlotte Richey was showing off her new skills at riding her scooter when she suddenly collapsed. Within seconds, the 4-year-old had stopped breathing and CPR was in progress. Originally, doctors told the girl’s parents she had a concussion. But a few weeks later, Charlotte collapsed again while playing in her yard.

“At that moment, I knew that I would do whatever it took to figure out” what was going on, said her mom, Rachel Richey, in a video about her daughter’s journey.

Rachel Richey was the featured guest speaker Thursday at the Red Heart for Women event at Maywood Country Club. While the annual event raises awareness of heart health among women and often focuses on the symptoms of heart attack and heart disease, Richey was present to share Charlotte’s story and advocate for more CPR training.

After Charlotte’s second episode and following a stress test, she was diagnosed with catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia, or CPMVT.

“She is at risk of V-tach either from too much physical activity or from emotional stimulus that raises her heartbeat,” Richey said as she spoke Thursday. If her daughter becomes startled or overly exerts herself, she could collapse again.

Charlotte, now 7, manages her condition with daily medications and careful monitoring of her physical activity and emotional state. She wears a medical alert bracelet wherever she goes and has an AED at home and at school. One of the most important safeguards the Richeys have adopted since Charlotte was diagnosed is ensuring that wherever she is, there is someone who is CPR-certified close by.

In the time following her daughter’s diagnosis, Richey has been an advocate for the American Heart Association and more CPR training across the state. She referenced recent legislation, which requires mandatory CPR training in high schools. When asked why she was so interested in seeing high schools push this training, Richey said these students would one day be Charlotte’s friends. Right now, they are her mentors and babysitters, “So yes, I need that training.”

As of 2016, more than 30 states had passed similar laws requiring basic CPR training in public schools. Equipping more Kentuckians with a basic understanding of CPR has not only been pushed by organizations such as the American Heart Association, but many have been promoting hands-only CPR training as well. This method does not require mouth-to-mouth, which many officials believe may have been a deterrent for bystanders to step in. Hands-only CPR gets blood pumping in the body quickly, potentially saving a life when only seconds matter. Those interested in learning more about hands-only CPR can visit cpr.heart.org.

Richey said her daughter has embraced her role as a “heart hero,” and her siblings have assisted in fundraising efforts for AHA and promotion of CPR training in honor of their sister.

Richey said as parents, they support Charlotte and hope to one day see a cure. For now, they do what they can to share her story so others affected by heart issues will share and support the American Heart Association and its research.