Thursday, May 1, 2014

Athlete Heart Screenings

I remember the day like it was yesterday. I had been waiting about a week for the appointment. Joey, my heart-healthy son, was having an athlete heart screening.

For years I had been worried that perhaps Joey had a heart defect, too. When I voiced concerns to Joey's pediatrician, he assured me that if Joey had a problem, we would know. He was healthy and he had no reason to recommend in-depth testing for Joey, despite the research I found that had been conducted by Children's Hospital of Philadelphia which showed that first and second degree relatives of children with left-sided heart defects (like my younger son, Alex was born with) had a much greater chance of having undiagnosed congenital heart defects. The research didn't sway him.

When I heard that there was a free athlete heart screening in Waco, I took Joey and we were the first ones there. As we entered the examination room, I explained to the technician that Joey was a state swimmer, but his brother was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. I asked them if we could specifically look at Joey's ascending aorta and all of his valves.

The technicians were so kind to me. It was a beautiful echocardiogram -- the most beautiful, textbook perfect echo I'd ever seen. The equipment was brand new and everything was so clear.

I was able to hold back until I reached the car before I burst into tears. Joey tried to reassure me, "Mom! It's okay. I'm fine." But his words couldn't stop the tears. I had been so worried for so long and I didn't even realize how worried I'd been!

What's really wonderful is that a friend shared with me a free young athlete heart screening going on in my home town of Temple, Texas. I even set up a Facebook Event for the screening. Now other families won't have to worry about their heart-healthy children. I only wish this had been available when Joey was younger. It would have saved me needless worry.

As if this isn't wonderful enough, a Toastmaster friend, Kevin McGrath, shared another URL with me that will benefit teens in the Central Texas region. One of Kevin's coworkers and his wife (Jim and Michelle Garcia) started the Championship Hearts Foundation which provides free heart screenings for athletes, marching band, cheer and drill team members -- and any student 14-18 years of age. Unbeknownst to me they've been around for 13 years. I strongly encourage everyone to share this URL and this information with others.

You never know when a heart screening might save a life.

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