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Screening hearts and saving lives

Free heart screenings are being offered to local students


Fortunately it doesn't happen to young athletes very often, but certain unknown yet treatable heart defects have led to sudden fatalities during strenuous sporting events.

To prevent future tragedies, the Children's Heart Fund of St. Charles Foundation and St. Charles Cardiovascular Services is providing free heart screenings for Crook County High School students next month.

"They do electrical testing of the heart, and then they look for structural abnormalities, hopefully preventing any of those horrible incidents from happening," said Crook County School District Nurse Terry Rich.

A letter sent out to students and parent explained that the screening will include an electrocardiogram (EKG), which is a test that checks for electrical conductivity of the heart, and a limited echocardiogram, an ultrasound that provides a two-dimensional image of the heart.

"These tests will be focused on detection of some of the heart conditions that can lead to sudden death in young people," the letter stated. "These conditions include abnormal thickening of the heart muscle, enlargement of the aorta, operation of the heart valve, and electrical conduction of the heart. These abnormalities are rare and may easily be missed on a routine physical exam."

Rich said that although some slots have been made available to local students during the past few years, this is the first time since 2004 or 2005 that the service has been offered to Crook County first.

"They focus on one school or one area (each year). We are the focus school this year," she said. "They like to do at least 120 kids. They try to get as many kids as possible."

Not only will the Children's Heart Fund provide screenings for that many students, a value of about $1,800 per person, they will bus them to the St. Charles Heart and Lung Center, in Bend, free of charge.

"Sometimes, the biggest obstacle is the transportation piece."

Last time the screenings were conducted in Crook County, it likely saved a few lives.

"We did pick up a couple of students who had that particular problem," Rich said.

Results of the screening will be mailed to students and parents. If the tests detect any heart issues, the conditions are typically treatable with a procedure that corrects the problem.

"The kids go on to do what they want, basically," Rich stated. "Generally, parents give me feedback. I know the one student that we did, the parent came back and was just so thankful that we found it."



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