Free heart screenings offered for young athletes - - Columbia, South Carolina

Free heart screenings offered for young athletes


With school being back in session, it means students are returning to their favorite sports as well. But a heart condition found in student-athletes is raising some serious concern.

There are no warning signs for the heart condition and it's something that develops over time, not something normally found at birth.

The heart is enlarged due to putting increased stress on the heart, which is why it's more prevalent in student-athletes because they are using their heart more than an average person.

Those who are at risk are hard to spot. Warning signs like dizziness and shortness of breath are dismissed by young athletes used to overworking themselves.

If a child has the defect, it catches everyone by surprise.

"There are so many teens out there that are dying from sudden cardiac arrest, out on the field playing football," said Michelle Stack, who helped raise money for heart scans for kids. "I can't imagine watching my child on the field make their last play and drop dead."

"We find it more in student-athletes because they're more active than someone who is a couch potato," registered nurse Olive Etheridge said. "The athletes are putting more strain on their heart, so therefore they are the ones who have the problems that we detect."

Someone dies from this condition every three days. To try and help prevent that Orangeburg Regional Medical Center is currently offering free echocardiogram screenings.

The funds for the free screenings are in memory of Kelly McKeowen, who died at the age of 15 because of the problem with her heart.

"She never had any symptoms, except that day. She was just jogging and fell and she was gone," McKeowen's grandmother, Annette Sutcliffe said.

Sutcliffe has been working closely with two Orangeburg businesses raising the funds for the free testing. She has also been talking with South Carolina legislators trying to get a law passed making it mandatory for student-athletes to have these screenings.

Sutcliffe said she could have known her granddaughter had the condition, but has been doing everything she can to make sure student athletes know about the defect and are tested.

To schedule an appointment, call 803-395-2325. Kids 15-22 are eligible, but those under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. For questions, contact Trudy Wingard at 803-395-2922.

Exams are free to the first 150 to sign up. After that, they will be offered for $50.00.

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