Hearts Worth Saving
Helping Those Who Serve Others
On March 3rd, 2012 the Shadows Foundation launched its new division “Hearts Worth Saving”. This program provides free cardiac screenings for firefighters, police and emergency medical services personnel.
Screenings are available throughout the year to accommodate all first responders in Northern Arizona. Summit Fire Department along with deputies from the Coconino County Sheriff’s Department were among the first agencies to take part in the screenings in March of 2012.
The goal of this program is to provide to Northern Arizona First Responders a heart screening and wellness program which includes a comprehensive and personalized plan assessing a variety of heart disease risk markers as well as environmental, genetic, and lifestyle factors that may contribute to heart disease progression.This advanced screening can detect heart conditions in this high risk population which may not show up during annual physicals and other mandatory health and fitness tests.
Emergency Duties and Deaths from Heart Diseases Among Firefighters in the United States
Shadows Foundation “Hearts Worth Saving” program, was created due to the findings of a study done by St. Joseph’s Hospital in Georgia that found firefighters had up to a 300 percent increased risk for heart disease as compared to the general population. As many as one-third of fire fighters had heart disease that was unrelated to traditional risk factors (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes & smoking), and 75 percent of heart attacks occurred while on active duty. The study concluded that the increased risk of heart disease was due to the unique combinations of genetics and the firefighter’s work environment.
44 percent of all firefighter deaths were the result of heart attacks or strokes. In contrast internal and head injuries resulted in 27 percent of deaths and suffocation and burns were only 20 percent.
Experts believe that working in fast-paced, high-stress conditions such as burning buildings, dangerous and life-threatening environments, life-saving circumstances and unfamiliar surroundings, along with strenuous physical activity and interrupted sleep and eating patterns can place a large strain on the heart and exacerbate underlying conditions.
If you are a First Responder and would like to participate in the "Hearts Worth Savings" Screening Program please email
Inspiration behind “Hearts Worth Saving”
Patrick Burns, a local firefighter, is a prime example of how his genetics and career nearly killed him. In November 2009, while out jogging, Patrick had a heart attack. It was his fellow firefighters at Summit Fire Department and paramedics from Guardian Medical Transport that sped to his rescue. They started life-saving care on Patrick, then quickly transported him to Flagstaff Medical Center. Immediate tests showed Patrick had a critical blockage in one of the arteries in his heart. Interventional cardiologist Omar Wani, M.D., inserted a stent into the artery, allowing the blood to once again flow to the heart – saving Patrick’s heart and his life.
Further tests revealed that Patrick was at a high risk of having a heart attack, even though he was young, strong, healthy and had just passed his firefighter’s physical and stress test. What Patrick didn’t know was that his family history of heart disease and the stress of being a firefighter was a ticking time bomb. For Patrick, it wasn’t a matter of if he would have a heart attack, but when.
Since that day, Patrick has become an advocate for advanced heart screenings for all first responders. Patrick contacted the Shadows Foundation and along with Vicki Burton developed the Hearts Worth Saving Program.