Heart disease survivor April Kawaguchi and her son Andrew

Mother and son share a genetic risk

Researchers are closing in on the inherited factors that put April and Andrew at risk for cardiac arrest.

April Kawaguchi never lets her guard down completely when it comes to her son Andrew. That’s because his heart could stop any time, without warning.

Nine-year-old Andrew has long Q-T syndrome, a disorder of the heart’s electrical system, which puts healthy people at risk of sudden cardiac arrest and death. In fact April has LQTS too; her heart stopped twice during her younger years, and doctors didn’t know why. After Andrew was born, DNA testing – a procedure developed, in part, with Heart and Stroke Foundation funding – revealed that mother and son share this condition.

Helping families like April’s protect themselves from cardiac arrest is Dr. Andrew Krahn’s goal. Support from Foundation donors is fueling his quest to find the genetic links that put family members at risk, and to develop a test to identify other potentially fatal inherited heart abnormalities.

Overseeing a national registry of patients who experience unexplained cardiac arrest, Dr. Krahn looks for patterns to better understand these conditions and detect them in family members – in the hope of saving them from sudden death.

For April, knowing about her son’s risk is hard, but not knowing would be so much harder. As it is, she can take steps to keep Andrew safe – learning CPR and making sure (with help from the Foundation) that there is a defibrillator at his school in case of emergency. Plus there is medication for his condition should he ever need it.

This year Dr. Krahn and his team uncovered more clues that point to other Aprils and Andrews, who may have no inkling of the risk they share. As Dr. Krahn puts it: “Identifying something before it becomes a problem and preventing tragedy from happening – that’s a breakthrough.”

  • Family history can double your risk of heart disease and stroke. Know your risk.

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