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Laguna Beach

Heartfelt program saves young lives: screening scheduled on Breakers Day at LBHS


When I have occasion to tell people about my father’s early death at the age of 39 back in 1965, I explain that he died of a heart attack (even though he was slim, athletic and apparently healthy).

Now, for the first time in all these years, thanks to Heartfelt, I’ve learned that there is a difference between a heart attack and a cardiac arrest. I had thought they were synonymous. Given the mists of time and distance, my young age then, and the unavailability of my dad’s death certificate, I’m still not sure which was true in his case – but perhaps, if he’d lived during today, his heart condition might have been diagnosed, and his death preventable.

That’s heartbreaking – and it is why I am particularly supportive of Laguna-based nonprofit Heartfelt, which encourages screening of young people for potential heart disease. I know Stu also felt strongly about this group.

Founder of Heartfelt Cardiac Projects (HCP) Holly Morrell is emphatic that the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest is a vital factor in prevention.

“People need to be educated about the fact that heart attack and cardiac arrest are not the same thing.  Until they understand this, they will fail to know their otherwise, seemingly healthy, active, young loved ones can be at risk,” she says. 

Six of Morrell’s family members, including her father, died as a result of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, and several others – including Morrell herself – have been diagnosed with the condition. It’s no wonder that she founded Heartfelt, dedicated to saving lives from Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA), this nation’s number one killer.

The American Heart Association explains it this way: Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart malfunctions and stops beating unexpectedly. Cardiac arrest is triggered by an electrical malfunction in the heart that causes an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). With its pumping action disrupted, the heart cannot pump blood to the brain, lungs and other organs.

Seconds later, a person becomes unresponsive, is not breathing or is only gasping. Death occurs within minutes if the victim does not receive treatment. 

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Submitted photo

Never too early to screen for heart disease, Holly Morrell says

On the other hand, heart attacks do not necessarily lead to cardiac arrest, AHA says. 

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked: a heart attack is a circulation problem. A blocked artery prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching a section of the heart. If the blocked artery is not reopened quickly, the part of the heart normally nourished by that artery begins to die.

“The media often shares the tragic story of a young athlete dying on the playing field (it happens every three days in this country) yet often fail to inform the public that it was most likely a preventable tragedy,” Morrell says. “Early detection is crucial.  You can live a full and happy life with heart disease, you just need to know you have it.” 

And that’s why HCP will be offering cardiac screening at Laguna Beach High school during the school’s Breakers Day – because heart disease and attacks do not necessarily have to lead to death. 

“Laguna Beach High School recently experienced a miracle of a young student/athlete surviving full cardiac arrest while in his Spanish Class.  I am sure his family had no idea he could be at risk. He lived … thousands don’t,” Morrell adds. “I hope my Laguna Beach community will take advantage of my Heartfelt cardiac screening and protect their loved ones.”

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Photo by Lynette

Police and ambulance respond when a student suffered a full cardiac arrest

The screening will take place in the North Gym of LBHS, 625 Park Ave, on Breaker Day, Monday, Aug 28 between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. The event is open to the public, ages five and up. Participants will receive $1,500 worth of comprehensive cardiac evaluation, including an Electrocardiogram (EKG/ECG) and Echocardiogram (cardiac ultrasound), for a donation of $85.

Register and schedule appointments online at

Morrell again: “SCA is the #1  Killer in the US.  It is also the #1 killer of women in this country and a young athlete dies from SCA every 3 days in the US. Early detection saves lives but is not generally offered for the public and/or not typically covered by insurance.

“HCP has saved and protected hundreds of lives throughout Orange County and wishes to help keep our own community from losing loved ones to what can often be a preventable tragedy.  Protect your loved ones and schedule your family today.”

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

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