CORONADO, Calif. - Hundreds of teenagers were given heart screenings in Coronado on Sunday that were organized by the parents of a local teenager who died from sudden cardiac arrest.
The second leading cause of death in America in those under 25 is sudden cardiac arrest. For basketball player Baxton Smith, a heart condition is not something he ever thought about.
"It's really scary to think about because you never know it could happen to you or someone close to you," he said.
It is a reality that changed the lives of the Paredes family in 2009. Their son Eric, who was a wrestler and basketball player, collapsed in the kitchen and died. He was diagnosed with sudden cardiac arrest, which causes nearly half a dozen deaths in San Diego each year.
After Paredes' death, Devin Lawson – who went to school with him – decided to get checked out. He received an EKG and learned he had a hole in his heart.
"I never thought anything could happen to me because I was always healthy," Lawson said. "I could run the whole soccer field, never got winded or anything. But it could happen to anybody."
Now, Lawson is back to his old self, left with a battle scar on his chest and a heart with a mission to spread awareness about sudden cardiac arrest.
He has gotten help from Paredes family, who started the Save a Life Foundation that provides heart screenings for students throughout San Diego County.
So far, they have already screened more than 8,000 teens. One hundred of them were at risk for a heart condition and four of them required surgery, giving parents a proactive approach to dealing with this deadly condition.
Rhina Paredes, Eric's mother, said, "Eric's place on earth was for us to be able to have a mission in life and try to save others and other parents from going through what we've been through."
Next month, there will be another screening at Patrick Henry High School.