Heart-screening effort gets national attention

Parents of local teen who died, PeaceHealth form collaboration

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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Quinn Driscoll Foundation

Young Champions program

When 13-year-old Quinn Driscoll died from sudden cardiac arrest in June 2009, his parents, Scott and Kelly, turned their grief into action.

They founded the Quinn Driscoll Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about cardiac arrest. They hosted fundraisers and granted money to area schools and youth programs for the purchase of automated external defibrillators, or AEDs.

They worked with PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center's Heart and Vascular Center to create the Young Champions heart screening program, which provides free or reduced-cost heart screenings for student athletes in Clark County.

And now, the Driscolls are mentoring other parents who have had a child die or be saved from sudden cardiac arrest, and also working to spread the Quinn Driscoll Foundation's mission across the country.

"I didn't intend four years ago for all this to be happening," Scott Driscoll said. "But you want to share your momentum. You want to share your success."

And the Quinn Driscoll Foundation — as well as the Young Champions program — has had a lot of success.

The Young Champions program has screened more than 2,500 Clark County kids. One in 85 screenings uncovers an issue warranting follow-up.

"It's just a dent, but it's a start," Driscoll said.

The Young Champions program holds biannual mass screening events; the most recent event was Saturday. During those events, physicians and nurses volunteer their time to screen more than 300 kids. The screenings are free, although the program asks for a $25 donation to help pay for future efforts.

The program also offers heart screening appointments throughout the week. Physicians at the Heart and Vascular Center schedule the screenings for when they have breaks between adult appointments, said Matt Nipper, an exercise physiologist for the center.

Those screenings cost $50, but the foundation helps cover that cost for families who cannot afford the visit.

The Young Champions model is unique, Nipper said, because it partners a community hospital with a local nonprofit organization. Most groups that offer heart screenings partner with one physician or one medical office, not an entire health system, he said.

"We're on the cutting edge of providing these screenings, especially within a health system environment," Nipper said.

Most other programs also don't offer both an electrocardiogram, or EKG, and an echocardiogram due to costs. EKGs historically have a higher rate of false-positives. The echocardiogram is performed to rule out false-positives or confirm initial findings, Nipper said.

"With the way we model our screening, it keeps costs way down," Nipper said. "We're about $18 a student on mass screenings."

The weekly screenings are a little more costly because the physicians are performing the screenings during work hours, as opposed to volunteering their time, Nipper said.

Nipper and Driscoll have shared their financial, marketing and screening models with anyone, and everyone, interested in launching a similar program in their communities. Driscoll has also helped other grieving parents start their own nonprofit foundations.

A few weeks ago, a Longview organization partnered with PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center to host their first heart screening event. Driscoll has also helped launch programs in Madison, Wis., Colorado and North Carolina. The Duke University Medical Center has also inquired about the program, Nipper said.

"I think what we should be proud of is Vancouver, Washington, from a community standpoint, is really leading the charge," Driscoll said. "In our little corner of the world, it's pretty exciting to have a community that stands behind its kids. We're just honored that we can be a part of it."

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health;http://facebook.com/reporterharshman;marissa.harshman@columbian.com.