by LINDA FRABL | photos by Alan Smith Photography

Heart-Healthy Futures

Ryan Poe and Jacob Li, a senior and junior at Torrey Pines High School, respectively, are friends who were both diagnosed with a heart condition known as Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. Their conditions were found at a free screening sponsored by the Eric Paredes Save a Life Foundation. Those with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome are at a higher risk for sudden cardiac arrest, which is when the heart unexpectedly stops beating, and an early diagnosis is tantamount to preventing this from happening. Now these two are helping others in their same situation.

Ryan recalled, “Before I was screened I couldn’t have believed that there was anything wrong with my heart. But after my diagnosis I had a successful cardiac catheter ablation and was back on the field doing the things I love to do, such as soccer, field hockey, and lacrosse. The screening may have saved my life and I am forever grateful.”

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Jacob is equally appreciative of his positive diagnosis. When he learned of his heart condition, he admitted, “I was shocked and scared, but within a week after my surgical procedure, I was back on the basketball court with no restrictions. The diagnosis has changed my life because I can be as active as I want to be, without fear of discomfort or worse.”


Name: Ryan Caitlin Poe (17)
School: Torrey Pines High School
Grade: 12
Parents: Allison Healy-Poe and Brandon Poe
Siblings: Erin (15) and Colin (13)


Name: Jacob Li (17)
School: Torrey Pines High School
Grade: 11
Parents: Quinn and Diana Li
Sibling: Jonathan Li (13)


Both Jacob and Ryan started a club that raises funds in order to place more automated external defibrillators (AEDs) on their Torrey Pines High School campus. Jacob explained, “Sudden cardiac arrest is the number-one killer of student athletes, and the leading cause of death on school campuses. AEDs are the only way to restart a heart during sudden cardiac arrest. They are easy to use and won’t shock a person if they are not in sudden cardiac arrest.”

“The diagnosis has changed my life because I can be as active as I want to be, without fear of discomfort or worse.” – Jacob Li

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The pair also volunteers for the Eric Paredes Save a Life Foundation, which has already screened over 25,000 young people in San Diego. Ryan proclaimed, “We work together to increase awareness about sudden cardiac arrest prevention and the importance of youth heart screenings.” Jacob added, “EKG testing is not a part of the well child visit, so for now, these screenings are the only way for fit and healthy youths to test for heart issues that could lead to sudden cardiac arrest.”

Ryan, who will play field hockey for UC Berkeley in the fall, enjoys participating in National Charity League events when she’s not doing her sports activities. Jacob is into basketball and snowboarding, and especially loves surfing at Torrey Pines and Del Mar beaches. These two active teens will be forever indebted to the test that had a huge impact on their lives, and they encourage others to be proactive about their own health as well.