Giving Hearts a Hand: Free heart screenings for student athletes

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By Lindy Thackston

INDIANAPOLIS (February 9, 2015) - You often hear about concussions when it comes to concerns about student athlete injuries, but you don't often hear about heart conditions. A south side man was inspired to change that after what happened to him when he turned 15 years old.

"As a high school sophomore I was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, where my left ventricle and septum are thickened and that restricts blood flow and can cause obvious issues with the heart working ineffectively and inefficiently," said Doug Meyer.

Meyer and his wife started Giving Hearts a Hand and they partnered with IU Health's Echoes for Athletes program. Working together, they go into schools and give athletes cardiac screenings for free. So far they've screened hundreds of students at no cost to their parents.

"I think the reason that it doesn't get a whole lot of attention currently is due to the fact that locally there has not been a whole lot of personal situations where something has happened to a child," said Meyer. "Those in the area that have been in the area for several years may remember John Stewart, a local kid from Lawrence North. He passed away from sudden cardiac arrest where he had the same condition I have. That’s been many years ago and locally there has not been a whole lot of issues."

"The EKG will show any electrical defects or any electrical issues that may be going on with the heart," said Meyer. "The echocardiogram will show any structural defects and make sure that the heart is working appropriately, make sure that all the valves are working efficiently and that there are no defects with the heart muscle itself."

Because of privacy rules, Meyer can't say how many possible defects they have caught in local student athletes.

"I think it’s one of those out-of-sight, out-of-mind things. And unfortunately it doesn't get brought to light until something tragic does occur."

The next event is March 16 at Center Grove High School. The screenings were booked within a day and there's a waiting list.

"We hope that long-term it’s just part of the regular school physical, that the EKG and the echocardiogram are included. As more awareness is brought forth, I think that will be a potential possibility."

If you want information on Giving Hearts a Hand or would like to set up a screening for your school, click here for details.

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