Heart Testing Pressed in Wake of Teen's Death

Providing ECG’s to our student athletes is a complicated proposition, with many moving parts.  One area that we focus on at Simon’s Fund is to facilitate change at the legislative level.  We support what the Ortega family is trying to accomplish and will keep our eye on their efforts as they trail blaze in the state of New Jersey.

By Deon J. Hampton, Staff Writer, The Record

RUTHERFORD, NJ — The parents of a teenager who died last year from cardiac arrest say they want legislation passed making heart-screening tests mandatory for all young people involved in organized sports.

Jose Ortega’s son Andrew, 13, played multiple sports, unaware that he had an enlarged heart, and died in his sleep last August. Ortega wants the testing to include a medical questionnaire, a heart murmur screening and an electrocardiogram — or EKG — which checks the heart’s electrical activity.

Pushing for change

Ortega co-founded the Andrew Ortega Foundation, which aims to prevent cardiac arrest in middle and high school students. He said he has had preliminary talks with state legislators about possibly enacting a testing law.

And while providing tests for thousands of athletes statewide is expensive and may be difficult to enact, Ortega contends the fight is worth every cent.

“There is no price on a person’s life,” he said. “My son never had any signs of heart problems.”

Legislation that would make defibrillators — which shock the heart into beating again — readily available for students remains stalled more than four years after being introduced.

Janet’s Law, A-781, would require every public school, recreation field and youth camp to have an automated external defibrillator, or AED.

State lawmakers say they don’t want to force a local mandate without providing the funds for it.

The proposed law is named for Janet Zilinski, an 11-year-old who died in 2006 after collapsing at a cheerleading practice from a previously undetected heart defect.


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