BEACHWOOD, Ohio (WJW) — Amid the spotlight on Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin’s recovery, a local family is advocating for preventive heart screenings in children, years after the sudden loss of their teenage son.
Stephanie Kornet was one of the millions of people who watched the Monday night football game in horror after Hamlin collapsed.
“My older son and I were watching the game live so we both looked at each other we knew,” said Kornet.
Alec Kornet died of sudden cardiac arrest nearly six years ago, at the age of 17.
“He was at hockey practice, and he, like, never had any symptoms of any cardiac issues, and he told his younger brother who was the goalie that he felt lightheaded, so he went and sat on the bench and that’s when he collapsed,” said Kornet.
The Brush High School student athlete’s memory lives on through the 4Alec Foundation. His parents have dedicated their lives to increasing access to AEDs and continue to push for heart screenings in children.
“We bring awareness about sudden cardiac arrest because nobody really knows about it,” said Kornet. “We didn’t know about it and it’s not part of their health, like, their yearly health exams. You know, they listen to your heart and they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, you’re good.'”
February is American Heart Month. The 4Alec Foundation is planning low-cost community heart screenings in collaboration with a local cardiologist so more young people can know their heart health status. The foundation donated AEDs to Brush High School in addition to local student-athlete organizations.
“Absolutely, the standard of care on that definitely needs to change,” said Kornet. “They need to have a baseline [electrocardiogram] and then like every other year. … Start screening these kids younger or even screening them. It’s not the standard of care.”
The spotlight on Hamlin’s recovery, she said, is bringing needed attention to the importance of heart health in younger people.
“Hopefully, it will take off and people will listen because you just don’t know, you might think your kid looks healthy and they’re not on the inside,” said Kornet.