One family hopes its heartbreak can prevent others from losing an active teen to sudden cardiac death.
It’s free and it’s fast. “Our goal is to be faster than Starbucks,” says cardiologist Dr. George Rodgers. It’s painless and non-invasive — high-tech heart screenings for hundreds of San Antonio student-athletes checking for possibly deadly genetic heart conditions.
“Anything to prevent another parent to have to go through what we went through,” says Dore Koontz.
Three years ago, 18-year-old Central Catholic student-athlete August Koontz died suddenly. Strong and fit, August showed no symptoms. But doctors said he died from an inherited disorder — a thickening of the heart muscle.
“You worry about drugs, you worry about alcohol, you worry about car wrecks,” says Koontz. “Not once did we ever think of my son dying from natural causes, from a heart condition.”
These disorders are hard to pick up from a physical examination and don’t necessarily impair a student’s athletic abilities.
“But make them vulnerable to developing very serious rhythm problems when they get that surge of adrenaline when they’re participating in sports,” says Dr. Rodgers.
About one out of every 180 students is as at high-risk for sudden cardiac death. But these conditions are very easy to pick up with an electrocardiogram, which traces the heart — or with an ultrasound of the heart. Thanks to newly founded AugustHeart Foundation, both tools are being used on these students. Both give immediate results.