Mother manages grief through advocacy and giving back
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Most people will never understand or experience pain like Lisa Pardington feels every day. Her son wasn’t sick. He was healthy. He was strong. He was 20 years old.
She wonders if a simple test could have saved his life.
“Max was a loving, free spirit and a deep thinker. He lived each day to the fullest, always pursuing his next adventure,” Pardington said.
Pardington has every right to be angry. No one would blame her if she didn’t want to talk about Max. No one wants to know what it feels like to bury a child. No one would question her if she shut out the world.
But, Pardington chose a different, more difficult path. She tells Max’s story to anyone who will listen. Her family created LiveLikeMax, a foundation to raise money for a program she didn’t know about before Max died. A program that might have saved his life.
The Pardington family has raised nearly $350,000 for the program. With those funds, Beaumont purchases new equipment for heart screenings and AEDs for schools.
In addition to raising money, the Pardington family also attends many of the screenings.
“It’s a bittersweet feeling when I go to a Student Heart Check. It forces me to re-live Max's final hours, but I am grateful to have the opportunity to help other families and save lives,” Pardington added.
Since the program’s inception in May 2007, Beaumont has screened 14,989 Michigan high school students. Of those students, doctors told 185 students to stop sports and follow up with a cardiologist due to heart abnormalities. Seven were diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or HCM.
HCM is the most common cause of death among U.S. athletes. Nearly 4,000 of those deaths are young people, like Max. But, his family refuses to let him become a statistic.
By volunteering at screenings and supporting the program through fundraising events, Pardington has formed friendships with people she would have never met.
“You can choose the path of least resistance or you can choose to be a positive force for others. We were not aware of heart checks for high school students, and we paid the ultimate price,” she said. “Our involvement in the program gives meaning and purpose to our lives.”
Student Heart Check Program Manager Jennifer Shea added, “Many parents don’t realize their child could be at risk for a life-threatening heart condition. Having parents like Lisa involved in our program demonstrates why these screenings are so important.”
Lisa will never stop grieving for her son. She will never stop missing Max. She will never stop asking herself, “What if?” And, she will never stop trying to prevent other mothers from planning a funeral for their child.
“Volunteering is a way to transform the sadness, anger, frustration, loneliness into something positive. Volunteering is rewarding, heart-lifting and energizing,” she said.
On May 13, the Pardington family will volunteer at a Student Heart Check screening at Greenhills School, 850 Greenhills Drive, in Ann Arbor. Max’s brother, Jack, graduated from the school.