Community heart screening detects problems for a handful of local teens

Volunteers conduct CPR and AED training. Photos courtesy of PeaceHealth Medical.

By Stefanie Donahue

Nearly 7 percent of all teens who participated in a community heart screening at Meridian High School last month presented symptoms of a heart problem.

On February 15, students from Meridian, Blaine, Lynden Christian and Mount Baker high schools participated in the sixth free Teen Heart Screen. Out of the 191 students tested, 13 presented symptoms of a heart problem, according to a statement released from PeaceHealth.

A team of physicians, registered nurses, EKG technologists and support team staff from Teen Heart Screen sponsor PeaceHealth Medical Group, as well as emergency service personnel from Whatcom County Fire Districts 1, 7, 14 and the Glacier Fire Department assembled to conduct the screenings. Representatives from Boston Scientific, Mended Hearts and Cardiac Insight as well as volunteers from around the community also provided assistance.

Screenings monitored students’ weight, height and blood pressure and utilized a 12-lead EKG to monitor electrical activity in the heart. Students consulted with a physician and some were given an echocardiogram. Volunteers also led CPR and AED response training.

Of the 13 teens that presented symptoms, three were referred for follow-up care after testing positive for “notable” conditions, including patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), left pulmonary artery (LPA) stenosis and atrial septal defect (ASD).

PeaceHealth cardiologist and medical director for Teen Heart Screen, Dr. Elisa Zaragoza, is credited with championing the event, which got its start locally in 2014 thanks to staff at PeaceHealth Medical, Ferndale High School and Whatcom County Fire District 7.

“The hope is that awareness of a heart defect or abnormality can help save a life,” read a statement from PeaceHealth about the program. “Meeting so many teens and reviewing their findings with them was deeply gratifying for the cardiologists. Among the physicians who volunteered to review the teens’ screening results the common response was, ‘This is why I became a doctor.’”

Teen Heart Screen volunteers.

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