It’s a story that’s become all too familiar.
A seemingly normal, perfectly healthy high school athlete takes to the basketball court or track, launches into a run and suddenly collapses, falling to the ground, stopped in their tracks and in the prime of their lives because of an undetected heart rhythm abnormality.
Such a scene played out right before members of Amy Walker’s family when her niece collapsed while running in a track and field event.
Walker is the technology director for Ashe County Schools.
Thankfully, Walker’s niece survived her cardiac episode. She takes daily medication and lives a perfectly normal life. Not everyone is so lucky, however, which is why Walker is hoping a new program at Ashe County High School (ACHS) will potentially save lives by detecting such cardiac abnormalities before it’s too late.
The first “Heart of a Husky” free heart screening for student athletes at ACHS is scheduled to take place on Saturday, May 31, from 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
The inaugural event is sponsored by Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation and Ashe Memorial Hospital (AMH).
The event is free and student athletes who are interested must register in advance.
“It’s a successful day if we don’t find any heart abnormalities,” Walker told members of the Ashe County Board of Education at their regular March meeting when she provided them with details of the event.
Athletes and JROTC Raiders members will be able to receive a cardiac screening and EKG review from a cardiologist, review of medical history with a nurse and orthopedic specialist, sports physical by a local physician, weight, vision and blood pressure checks and a concussion screening.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 2,000 people under the age of 25 in the US die from sudden cardiac arrest each year, and it’s the number one killer of young athletes.
“I’ve been involved in screenings for several years in other places that I’ve worked, and every year, at least one athlete was identified with some kind of life-threatening cardiac anomaly, that the athlete, physician nor the parents knew the athlete had,” AMH CEO Laura Lambeth told the Jefferson Post late last month. “So it really is a higher level of screening for the athletes in Ashe County.”
Lambeth said the screenings for student athletes is the first of its kind in the High Country.
“Ashe is the first, but other schools in neighboring counties are looking into hosting similar events,” Lambeth said.
For more information on the inaugural Heart of a Husky event visit the ACHS website at ashehigh.k12.nc.us.
Alan Bulluck can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @albulluck.