Brevard father-daughter duo raising heart health awareness amid COVID-19 pandemic

Zachary Martin Act was passed on this past June

A father and daughter duo working to save the lives of student-athletes have reached another milestone for heart health.

VIERA, Fla. – A father and daughter duo working to save the lives of student-athletes have reached another milestone for heart health.

News 6 first learned about Lexi Sima’s fight a year after the then 16-year-old nearly died while running on a treadmill.

“I’m so glad it wasn’t someone other than me,” Sima said.

The high school cheerleader and lifelong student-athlete was at the gym, doing a workout she performed daily when she suffered Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). Bystanders jumped into action to perform CPR and located an AED within minutes, saving Sima’s life.

Since then, Sima and her father, an Air Force veteran and orthopedic physician’s assistant, have made additions to the Brevard County student progression plan to require all students to learn CPR before graduation and advocated for districtwide heart screenings for student-athletes.

Now, during the global pandemic, both father and daughter are working in the medical field to help coronavirus patients. But their work to raise awareness about the importance of cardiac care has never lost momentum.

“So these COVID-19 numbers that we’re all freaking out about, which we should be, but that’s sudden cardiac arrest every single year,” Shawn Sima, Lexi’s father, said.

According to the American Heart Association, Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is a leading cause of death. More than 320,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur annually in the United States.

[RELATED: CPR training now mandatory for Brevard County students]

The Simas have been pushing to add language about SCA into a bill just approved by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

HB 7011 - Zachary Martin Act was approved on June 23, 2020.

It requires each public school that is a member of the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) to make its automated external defibrillator (AED) available on school grounds in a clearly marked, publicized location for each athletic contest, practice, workout, or conditioning session, including those outside of the school year.

“There’s going to be either a coach or a volunteer that’s trained in CPR that’s required, and it’s also going to be a requirement to have an AED available whenever our kids are practicing,” Shawn Sima said.

This is another victory for the Simas, especially during a time when much of the focus remains on the ongoing pandemic.

“At some point COVID will pass but this is something that never will, you know we can’t shut down the country and make sudden cardiac arrest a big awareness,” Lexi Sima said.

The provisions will take effect starting July 1, 2021.