BALTIC, SD -
Like any 16-year-old, Adam Thompson was looking forward to a couple of things: an upcoming rock concert and the day he would finally get his driver's license. But just a few hours after his first drivers ed lesson on May 23, the Baltic teen collapsed in his room and died.
"Every day goes by you think of him. [We] miss his smile. [We] miss his laugh," Ann Thompson said.
It was hard to miss that laugh, especially when he honed in on one of his passions like music, dirt biking and of course, video games.
"I was famous for hollering down the stairs, 'Turn it down, I can't hear myself think!'," Ann said.
Unbeknownst to the Thompsons, Adam had a condition called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy or HCM. It causes the heart to thicken, forcing it to work harder to pump blood. One in 500 people have this disease, but they may never notice the symptoms. In fact, when Adam got home he only complained of being tired and short of breath. But his mom said he did not seem alarmed about it. He had woken up at about six a.m. that day, so she did not think the symptoms were anything to worry about either.
"We were sitting on the couch and we heard him fall in the bedroom," Ann said.
Adam died before paramedics got there. An autopsy revealed his heart was four times larger than a normal heart.
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy can range from genetics to a birth defect and can go undetected unless you know what you are looking for. A doctor told the Thompsons there was nothing they could have done to save their son.
"If kids are used to having these, what an adult would call symptoms, the kids don't know they are symptoms," Ann said.
They had their 9-year-old daughter, Abby, tested for the condition.
Now they are going a step further by hosting an awareness benefit. Among the highlights is Driven; the band that was supposed to play at Adam's 16th birthday party. Even though Adam's 16th birthday was in March, the party was to happen just days after he died.
The benefit, complete with Adam's favorite band, is not just about honoring his memory. The money raised will pay for other teens in the area, including Adam's 22 classmates, to get tested for HCM. Testing is as easy as an EKG and echocardiogram and can cost $50.
"Even when I am in my car when I'm driving I'll talk out loud, Adam, am I doing the right thing? Adam loved people and loved helping people," Ann said.
The Thompsons learned the unthinkable lesson that an enlarged heart can end in tragedy. However, it is their pair of big hearts that are leading to hope. The couple took a thoughtful pause to ponder what they would do should a mother thank them in the future for saving her son or daughter.
"I can't even tell you," Ann said. "That would be wonderful. I know Adam is watching and he would be so happy about that as well."
The benefit is on August 11 at the D.I.G. Stop, off exit 94 on I-29, in Baltic at three p.m. There will be live music and a silent auction. It is a free will donation and anyone can attend.
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