Portable defibrillators called ‘MIKEYs’ are saving young lives

Emily Herbert and her family

Emily Herbert, 14, with her parents, Leanne and Tim, and her brother, Alex, at their home in Welland, Ont., on Saturday. Both Emily and Tim have Brugada syndrome, which increases the risk of sudden cardiac arrest. Emily carries a portable defibrillator machine with her at all times. (Peter Power / for The Toronto Star)

The Toronto Star published an article about our Mikey’s Kids program, and talked to the family of one of our Mikey’s Kids, Emily Herbert.

When Emily Herbert was diagnosed at age 5 with Brugada syndrome — a lifelong condition that increases the risk of sudden cardiac arrest — her parents were afraid to let her out of reach.

They’d need to scale back family trips and chaperone all of Emily’s outings, they thought.

“It was totally frightening,” says her dad, Tim Herbert, who also has Brugada syndrome, a genetic condition, and has an implanted defibrillator in his chest. “We had no idea what to expect other than to not want to let her out of our eyesight. As most children grow up, they’re looking for flexibility and freedom away from mom and dad.”

But soon after the diagnosis, doctors at the Hospital for Sick Children connected Emily and her parents to the Mikey Network kids program. Since 2006, the initiative has paired more than 200 kids like Emily with portable defibrillators called “Mikeys,” named after Mike Salem, a man who died from cardiac arrest on a golf course without access to a defibrillator in 2002.

Now 14 and in high school, Emily has carried her Mikey — which she named “Roxy” — with her for almost nine years. Her parents hope she’ll have a wireless defibrillator implanted before she goes away for university in a few years. This Saturday, Emily will participate in the Walk of Life on “Team Mikey” at the Ontario Science Centre and E.T. Seton Park, an event to raise money for the Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada.

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