Derek Armstead Sr. was visiting his fiancé's sister's house in Virginia Beach, Virginia with his fiancé, Jasmine, her then 6 year-old daughter, Peyton, and their 6-month-old son, Derek Jr. Two of Jasmine’s young nephews asked Derek to play box with them. Derek was playing with the kids when he suddenly lost consciousness. Jasmine recalls looking over and seeing Derek looking like he was “sleeping”. Initially they thought he was joking, because he was playing with the kids and he was a big jokester.. but when he wasn’t responding, Jasmine called an ambulance and Derek was taken to the emergency room. When he regained consciousness he stated that all he remembered was “getting a bad headache”. While at the hospital, the attending doctors assumed that his headache prior to passing out was suspect of a possible seizure. They performed a CT scan but didn’t see anything unusual so they sent him home with the recommendation that he schedule a visit with a neurologist.
He scheduled the visit with the neurologist. The appointment with the neurologist was very brief and Derek was told that it sounded like he had a seizure and he would order some further testing. After the appointment, Derek drove back to his home in New Kent, Virginia. Two days later Derek was driving with his son, coming back from a visit at his sister Jill’s house, when he decided to drop Derek Jr. off at home before leaving again to drive to get dinner for his family. After bringing their son in the house he leaned over in the hallway and stated “I have a headache”. He lost consciousness again, but this time he wasn’t breathing. 10 minutes later when the ambulance arrived, they immediately started CPR and continued CPR until they reached the hospital. Derek never regained consciousness and passed away on August 20, 2020. He was only 29 years old. An autopsy revealed that the cause of death was sudden cardiac arrest due to Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM).
Derek’s fiancé, Jasmine, and his sister, Jill, are going to great lengths to have his family members evaluated–both genetically and clinically. They are both volunteers on the HCMA’s Health Equity Committee. We believe that Derek had a family history of HCM, his mother passed away at 26 years old from an enlarged heart which they suspect is due to HCM, had they known if Derek’s mom had HCM it could have been caught sooner and possibly prevented his tragic death. Family history questions were never asked when Derek was brought to the hospital the first time.
Derek Armstead Sr. was a loving father, fiancé, brother and friend to many. According to his sister, Jill, “Derek was funny, kind and willing to help anyone.” Jill reflects that, even though Derek is no longer with us, he can still help others. By sharing his story, Jill and Jasmine hope that others see the importance of paying attention to their family history and educating themselves on HCM. They want to do their part to ensure what happened to Derek does not happen to anyone else.
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To learn more about hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), go to https://www.4hcm.org.
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