The American Heart Association honored the life of Gerold Blum over the weekend at its annual Heart Ball. Just over four years ago, the ROTC member at the University of Memphis was 18-years-old when he died in his sleep from a rare heart condition. His family is now hoping that his story will help save lives, whether through increased research or CPR training.
Blum was the youngest of three for Jerry and Barbara Blum. His father says, “he was always very active, even as a young boy.”
Barbara Blum describes her son as ambitious. “If he wanted something, he was going to make it happen.”
Gerold was a freshman at the University of Memphis when he passed away, with hopes of serving the country in the army, before a career in criminal justice. He was home for Christmas break the night he died, following an outing with friends.
“Actually, heard him come in the house right after the movie, play with the dog a little bit, and heard him run up the stairs,” describes Jerry Blum. It would be the last time he heard his son’s steps.
The following morning Barbara called up the stairs to wake him but got no response. “I opened the door and it seriously looked like he was just sleeping in bed, so I got close to the bed and said ‘Gerold, you need to get up.’”
She says it didn’t take long to realize that he wasn’t breathing. After dialing 911, she says, “I continued CPR until I heard the sirens.” The whole family was in total shock, losing a seemingly perfectly healthy son with no warning.
Jerry Blum says the medical examiner called Gerold’s cause of death cardiac dysrhythmia. “The heart didn’t fire properly,” he explains, causing it to stop suddenly. The condition could have been linked to Long QT Syndrome, a heart rhythm condition that can cause fast, chaotic heartbeats that can lead to sudden death.
Gerold had been active his entire upbringing, with no signs or symptoms. “He had physicals for football, he had physicals for the Army, the normal physicals that kids have going to school,” said Jerry Blum.
He says had this happened in public, there’s a chance his son could have survived. “If he had been in line at the grocery store or somewhere in public and he would have fell out like that, somebody would have started CPR, and quite possibly could have gotten his heart going again and saved his life.”
The Blum family is now supporting CPR training and American Heart Association research, while encouraging others to do the same. “We’ll do everything we can, so no other family suffers this way,” says Barbara Blum.