Whiteland family advocates for youth heart checks after tragic loss of son

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WHITELAND, Ind- It’s the start of another high school football season, and for Carol and Stephen Latham, it’s the first season without their son Ryan.

“Ryan was 15 and a half and he went to sleep on Friday night after a football game. I went to wake him up on Saturday morning and he was gone,” Carol said.

Ryan Latham was a lineman on the football team at Whiteland High School when he died suddenly in his sleep last fall. In the days that followed the community rallied around the family, who still had no idea what went wrong.

“It’s terrifying that your perfectly normal kid could just not wake up,” Carol said. “That’s earth-shattering.”

It turns out Ryan had a rare undetected heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy that could’ve been treated, if only they knew.

“There’s no warnings, no symptoms, nothing that we would have ever known what was wrong with him,” Carol said. “The only way to find out is this heart test we’re doing.”

So the Latham family now works with the organization “Play Heart Smart,” which provides free checks to hundreds of young athletes like Ryan.

These screenings are a proactive way in preventing sudden cardiac death,” said Play Heart Smart founder Ashley Williams. Williams is also an Echo Tech at Community Health in Anderson.

The results are then reviewed by a cardiologist. Finding a problem would keep a child out of sports, but it also would keep them alive.

“It is preventable,” Williams said of an early death. “These quick 5 to 10 minute ultrasounds with a quick 5 minute EKG … it can save a child’s life.”

4:46:08 “one in a million… seriously one in a million”

Ryan Latham is far from forgotten. His parents hope his legacy inspires other families to get a heart check before it’s too late.

“Today was supposed to be his first day of school and he’s not here,” Carol said. “This test would have made sure that he was. That’s how big of a deal it is.”

Play Heart Smart is providing nearly 100 heart checks to football players in Whiteland this fall.

If you know a team interested in having Play Heart Smart provide free checks, email playheartsmart@gmail.com or call 317-440-5500.

The organization is funded by sponsors and donations. You can learn more at playheartsmart.org.

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