Free Teen Heart Screenings Changing San Antonio Lives

“We’re looking for any dilatation or thickness of the heart that would put any of these kids at risk for sudden cardiac death.”

By Wendy RigbyAugust 1, 2016 9:30 am| ,

From Texas Public Radio

Jake Stewart of San Antonio has already had a lot of success on the football field playing for Clark High School. This year, the 17-year-old is heading into his senior year serving as the Cougars quarterback.

At the heart of Jake story is a free screening he attended three years ago, a test that revealed a hidden threat. “I had Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, also called WPW,” Jake said.

WPW is a congenital heart problem, an extra electrical path that put Jake at increased risk for cardiac arrest. “My mom freaked out. Yes,” Jake remembered.

“It was so shocking. It was so shocking,” said Kim Stewart, Jake’s mother. It was her idea to take Jake to free screenings offered by AugustHeart, a local non-profit providing the tests in honor of August Koontz, an 18-year-old who died in his sleep from an undetected heart problem.

In July, hundreds of young men and woman ages 14 to 18 lined up for EKGs to test their electrical output. Cardiologist Dr. Nandish Thukral volunteered to read them on site.

“They’re having a 12-lead EKG or an electrocardiogram. Essentially that’s a tracing of the electrical system of the heart,” Thukral explained.

If the physician suspects a thickening of the muscle or an abnormal heart rhythm, the boys and girls can get an echocardiogram, a sonogram, right then and there.

“We’re looking for any dilatation or thickness of the heart that would put any of these kids at risk for sudden cardiac death,” said Derrick Eaton, a cardiac sonographer who also volunteers for AugustHeart.

About one in a hundred teens are sent for observation, further testing, sometimes a procedure or even surgery.

“I think it’s a good opportunity to see how healthy I am,” commented Lee High School football defensive lineman Douglas Karam. He said the process was easy and painless. “The nice ladies just ask you to take your shirt off and they put patches on you and then you get your heart screened.”

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