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Family donates AED to preschool to save kids from 'silent killer'

5:21 PM, Aug 16, 2011   |    comments
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"No warning, no notice, we had no idea she was sick," Jennifer Maki, Skyler's mother, said.

Maki says her daughter suffered from primary pulmonary hypertension, causing her to go into sudden cardiac arrest.

"They don't believe she was born with it. It's not hereditary and it's what they call a silent killer," Maki said. "It was undiagnosed."

This was years ago, in the spring of 2007. At the time, Skyler was attending the Primrose School of Thornton. After her death, teachers and administrators dedicated a garden to Skyler. Now, Maki says it's her turn to give back.

"It's my job to keep her memory alive," Maki said.

Maki and her family created The Skyler Foundation. The foundation teamed up with the Cardiac Science Company to donate an automated external defibrillator (AED) to the Primrose School of Thornton.

"It's what can be the difference between life and death," Maki said.

The AED is placed in the hallway in the center of the school with all staff members trained on how to use it.

"We're just honored to be able to have an AED in our school in a preschool where you might not expect to find it," Beth Letzsch, owner of the Primrose School, said.

Maki says she wants to save other kids from sudden cardiac arrest by making an AED readily available and by educating parents about the need to have their kids tested for heart issues through an electrocardiogram commonly called an EKG.

She says kids should also have their blood pressure monitored closely.

Maki says it's a way for Skyler to make a difference.

"To have her live through me, by educating parents," Maki said.

It's already worked with the school's owner, Letzsch.

"We had no idea that my daughter had a heart problem either," Letzsch said.

Shortly after Skyler's death, Letzsch took her daughter Lauren to the doctor to check for any possible heart issues.

"I had a hole in my heart," 8-year-old Lauren said.

She needed two surgeries to repair her heart which had also become enlarged.

Letzsch says during one the procedures, Lauren's heart stopped. That's when something unusual happened.

"Skyler came to me and wrapped me in her angel wings," Lauren said.

Lauren says Skyler comforted her during that time. Lauren was 4 years old and had never met Skyler.

"And, she said, 'Lauren, it's time to go.'" Lauren said.

Letzsch says two days after Lauren awoke from surgery, her daughter told her about the experience.

"She woke up looked me in the eye, sat up in the bed and said, 'Mommy, I have to tell you something. You have to hear this,'" Letzsch said.

Maki says that story gives her hope.

"Through Lauren, I truly believe it was a gift from God to say that this isn't the end of your life and you will see her again," Maki said.

Maki says her experience confirms that what she is doing through The Skyler Foundation is right. She is working with Letzsch to get AEDs placed in every Primrose School in the state of Colorado. After all, her mission is to save lives.

"Because of Skyler, Lauren is here today," Maki said. "We've already saved Lauren's life."

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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