Coroner: Jackson student died of congenital heart defect

The death of a first grade student at Jackson Elementary School earlier this week was due to coronary artery anomaly -- essentially a congenital heart defect, the Medical Examiner's office said Friday.

Sebastian Gerena, 7, died Wednesday afternoon at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia after becoming sick at the school, which did not have a nurse on duty at the time.

The condition, which is also referred to as anomalous coronary artery (ACA), is present at birth and often not diagnosed until late adolescence or adulthood because of the lack of symptoms or because symptoms may not be recognized as being caused by ACA, according to an article from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Those with undiagnosed ACA may have an initial episode of chest pain, heart failure, or even sudden cardiac death before the condition is recognized.

Experts say the condition occurs in about 1 to 2 percent of the general population.

While it is unclear if a nurse at the school could have saved Sebastian, his death has led to an outcry over the lack of resources in Philadelphia schools, many of which lack full-time nurses, counselors and librarians due to severe budget cuts.

The Passyunk Square Civic Association is collecting donations for memorial and funeral costs for Sebastian's family. Checks can be made payable to Passyunk Square Civic Association, which will write a check directly to the funeral home. All donations should say "Family of Jackson student" on the memo line.

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