METAIRIE, La. -- The Wally Pontiff Jr. Foundation has made a donation to the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Association (HCMA) to raise awareness of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM), a genetic disease which results in a thickening of the heart muscle.
Wally Pontiff Jr., an outstanding baseball scholar-athlete at LSU, died in his sleep from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) in 2002 at the age of 21. Each year 300,000 people die from SCA. The most common cause of SCA in young people is HCM.
Wally’s parents, Wally Sr. and Terry Pontiff, established the Wally Pontiff Jr. Foundation to benefit philanthropic organizations in the New Orleans area.
“The money donated by The Wally Pontiff Jr. Foundation will be used to educate cardiologists in greater Metairie and New Orleans,” said Lisa Salberg, president and founder of the HCMA.
According to Salberg, recent surveys have shown that the general medical community has a very limited understanding of HCM and other conditions which mimic it.
As a result, 150 cardiologists will receive from HCMA – in memory of Wally Pontiff Jr. – an information package containing HCM fact sheets, medical journal articles and a copy of HCM for Patients, Their Families and Interested Physicians, co-authored by Salberg and Dr. Barry J. Maron, head of the HCM Center at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation.
“No parent should ever have to lose a child,” said Terry Pontiff. “We want to get the word out that by simply improving pre-participation screening forms and conducting ECGs on properly selected children and athletes we can reduce sudden cardiac death.”
Although there is no cure for HCM, the best defense is to diagnose it early and treat it with beta blockers and, in some cases, an Implantable Cardiac Defibrillator (ICD).
Since its inception in 1996, the HCMA has been raising awareness about HCM on a national level. It recently adopted a new approach to educate one medical community at a time through its “Get the Word OUT!” campaign.
The Wally Pontiff Jr. Foundation raises money by sponsoring several events each year, including the Wally Pontiff Jr. Foundation Baseball Classic. LSU annually participates in the game, which will be held this season on April 22 versus UL-Lafayette at Zephyr Field in Metairie.