RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Sudden Cardiac Arrest is the leading cause of death in young athletes. It’s a statistic John and Jeremy Lopynski learned in the most devastating way.
Their 18-year-old son Ryan died from an undetected heart condition in 2009.
Ryan had come home for the weekend during his freshman year at Virginia Tech. He passed away while taking a shower.
Even though it has been nearly eight years since his death, Ryan’s parents still feel their son’s presence every day.
“Our little angel in heaven for sure,” says his teary-eyed mom, Jeremy. “He’s always reaching out to me and my husband, just to give us the energy … to give us encouragement.”
Since Ryan’s death, the Lopynski’s have worked to save other young people’s lives.
They created the Ryan Lopynski Big Heart Foundation and travel across the Commonwealth offering free heart screenings to young people.
“On one hand, you don’t want a child to have a problem. On the other hand for us, catching a child who has a problem where he or she doesn’t realize they have a problem is very gratifying,” explains Ryan’s dad John.
They have checked the hearts of nearly 3,500 kids so far and saved many lives.
Robbie Arwood went to a screening and found out he had Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, a relatively rare heart defect that causes problems with electrical impulses within his heart. Months later, Arwood had surgery to correct the problem.
“The Ryan Lopynski Foundation, that family saved my life,” maintains Arwood.
In Richmond last year, the foundation screened about 250 teens. A handful of them were referred to experts with potentially dangerous heart problems.
It is not the kind of news a parent wants to hear, but the Lopynski’s will tell you the alternative could be a devastating loss you never overcome.
That is why their passion pushes them to help others in their son’s memory.
“Ryan’s been there every step of the way — really and it makes us feel good when we’re doing something to save another family,” Jeremy says.