At Naperville North High School, they’ve been doing heart screenings for students since 2003.
“Midwest Heart Foundation came to us and just really offered this to our student body, free of charge, and to us, it was a no-brainer. It advocates for kids. It keeps them safe, so why wouldn’t we do it?” said Naperville North Physical Education teacher John Fiore.
Naperville North is among the schools in DuPage County where students can sign up for free heart screenings. All students can get screened, not just the athletes in a school.
A recent student in Houston showed out of 94 kids, who were 6th graders, seven were found to have an undiagnosed heart condition. Two of the seven needed surgery.
“Well, it’s actually pretty scary because it’s really a law of averages,” Fiore said. “There are a certain amount of students walking through the halls of Naperville North right now that are at risk for sudden cardiac death, and the only way to diagnose that is to take one of the steps, and the EKG screening is one of those steps.”
Naperville North parent and school financial secretary Lauren Jamieson signed her daughter up to take the heart screening next week.
“On a personal note, we’ve had heart disease in my family, both sides of my family, and I did have a brother that passed away at 36 from a heart attack,” Jamieson said.
Dr. Vincent Bufalino is the President and CEO of Midwest Heart Specialists.
“Most of these incidents, to be honest with you, were in teenagers, where the majority of the cases around the country are in teens or 20s, where they’ve had these events,” Dr. Bufalino said.
When asked if doing an EKG at a younger age would be helpful, Dr. Bufalino said, “Well, it’ll pick up a few more obviously, ’cause a lot of those are already there ahead of time, so there may be some benefit. Our belief is, screening these kids is going to be fruitful because it’s going to find these kids, or the majority of these kids, who are at risk.”
Dr. Bufalino also said in the past two and a half years, out of 38,000 high school students, about 760 had an abnormal EKG. Not all of them had a significant heart problem. Some discovered a genetic problem that put them at risk.
Warning signs for a child with heart problems are: fainting episodes, chest pain, especially after exercise and shortness of breath.
African-American children are at higher risk. Some are born with a thickened heart muscle, making them more prone to heart problems later in life.
To learn more about the free screenings, click here.
You’ll also be able to see what schools in the western suburbs are offering free heart screenings.