Jordan Lester lay motionless on a hospital bed Saturday afternoon as a nurse attached cords to his chest. A doctor stood by, examining a screen that showed Jordan’s heart.
After a few beats, Dr. Michael Subocz looked up. “It looks good, man,” he said.
His parents joked that the doctor’s response meant Jordan was OK to rake the lawn.
“That’s why we’re really here, huh?” Subocz quipped.
Subocz and other cardiologists were on hand at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center all day Saturday to perform heart screenings on about 320 teens as part of the Young Champions Clinic. Most of the young people who came were like Jordan, active in sports, and whose parents signed them up for the screenings simply as a precaution.
“Our concern is the sudden death,” said Jordan’s father, Mike Lester, of Hockinson. “He plays a lot of sports, and asthma runs in the family.”
Fortunately, Jordan’s screening showed that his heart was healthy. In the afternoon, Dr. Subocz said he had not yet encountered any teens with a heart problem.
The screenings were intended to detect symptoms that can lead to sudden cardiac death, such hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, QT syndrome and other electrical instabilities, said Scott Driscoll, president of the Quinn Driscoll Foundation, which put on the clinic.
“The screening is really a triage. It’s not a diagnosis,” Driscoll said. “It’s a discovery of possible issues. They will make a referral to a physician.”
Driscoll’s foundation, named for his son who died in June 2009 of sudden cardiac arrest, also works with PeaceHealth to offer weekday screenings for $50. Saturday’s event asked for only a $25 donation. Both are significantly less than the usual thousand-dollar cost of a heart screening. The donations go toward the foundation and help purchase of AEDs, automated external defibrillators, for local schools.
Driscoll said the publicity around several recent metro-area deaths from sudden cardiac arrest including the death of La Center teen Cody Sherrill, who collapsed in January at a school basketball practice prompted a number of parents to sign their kids up for screenings. The large number meant not all of them could be seen Saturday; Driscoll said there’s a waiting list that contains hundreds of names.
“Parents are wanting to protect their kids” after hearing about Sherrill’s death, Driscoll said.
The 14-year-old’s death was still fresh at the clinic, apparent in the signs posted throughout the lobby of the hospital that read: “We are proud to honor the memory of Cody Sherrill. Aug. 28, 1997 – Jan. 9, 2012.”
Several La Center teens came to the clinic mainly because of the shock of Cody’s death. Jonah Rodewald was one. He lives in La Center, but is a freshman at Hockinson High School. His dad, Doug Rodewald, said that while the family didn’t personally know Cody, his tragic death was a reminder to be alert for health issues.
“The problems with the heart are often overlooked,” he said. “This is kind of a way to cover our bases.”
Melissa Henry, an Evergreen High School sophomore who volunteered at the clinic, said she’s seen the benefits of the heart screenings. She said two of her classmates were found in previous screenings to have heart problems.
“We had a couple people from our school who have gotten saved” through the screenings, she said. “It’s great to try and prevent these things.”