Every so often teenagers die suddenly from heart conditions while playing basketball or participating in gym class.
According to a school official, several of these deaths have occurred in the community over the last several years. One-third of these deaths may have been prevented through a simple, inexpensive heart screening called an electrocardiogram (ECG), according to the Midwest Heart Foundation website
Midwest Heart Foundation, under the direction of Dr. Joseph Marek, a clinical cardiologist with Midwest Heart Specialists, has started a program to offer free ECGs to high school students in Naperville who may be at risk for sudden cardiac death.
The Young Hearts for Life Cardiac Screening Program, travels among different schools offering the free screening. Doctors donate their time to read the test results, and community volunteers are trained to perform the screening. The test will soon be conducted in schools.
“Since 2006 we have provided free ECG screenings to over 50,000 high school students,” Marek said. “Because of this program, we have been able to identify dozens of students who do have serious medical conditions and can then get the right treatment. It’s saving lives.”
According to Midwest Heart, the electrocardiogram records the electrical activity of the heart using electrodes attached to the skin with a mild adhesive that provides information about heart rate and rhythm.
The entire screening takes approximately three minutes and can help to detect potentially life threatening heart conditions such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM, the leading cause of death in young athletes), long QT syndrome, Brugada syndrome, and arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia ARVD.
Parents receive their child’s test results in the mail approximately three weeks after the test. If there is further evaluation recommended, the parents are told to first follow up with their primary care physician.
Indian Prairie School District 204 is offering this screening at all of their high school campuses beginning in February. Being able to offer this screening is personal to District 204 families.
“We had three students who have passed away as a result of sudden cardiac death over the years, said Jason Altenbern, community relations coordinator at District 204.
The district’s PTAs, the Indian Prairie Parent Council, the Indian Prairie Educational Foundation, Edward Hospital and Chartwells provide support for the program, he said.
Screening dates and locations are as follows:
- Metea Valley High School: Feb. 17
- Waubonsie Valley High School: March 22-23
- Neuqua Valley High School: April 14-15
- Neuqua Valley High School - Gold Campus (Freshman Center): April 21
All high school students are eligible to register for a free screening. It is recommended they register on the Midwest Heart website in advance of the actual screening dates.
“We currently have 900 students at Metea Valley registered for the program and we have room for more,” said Michelle Augustyniak, physical education, health, and driver education department chair at Metea Valley High School. “It is our hope that the families at Metea will take advantage of this great opportunity.”