Geneva High students tested for heart ailments

  • Eric Melin, 18, waits for his EKG to be completed by volunteer Chris Stratton Thursday inside the Mack Olson Gymnasium at Geneva High School. More than 1,100 students received EKGs to look for rhythm abnormalities as part of the Young Hearts for Life program. Melin said it was his first time having the procedure. Stratton is an experienced volunteer doing EKGs for the Midwest Heart Foundation.

      Eric Melin, 18, waits for his EKG to be completed by volunteer Chris Stratton Thursday inside the Mack Olson Gymnasium at Geneva High School. More than 1,100 students received EKGs to look for rhythm abnormalities as part of the Young Hearts for Life program. Melin said it was his first time having the procedure. Stratton is an experienced volunteer doing EKGs for the Midwest Heart Foundation. Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Clips are attached to the magnetic pads stuck to the chest (as well as ankles) of Geneva High School senior Andy Francis, 18, as he gets an EKG Thursday at the school. More than 1,100 students signed up for the test, which checks for rhythm abnormalities.

      Clips are attached to the magnetic pads stuck to the chest (as well as ankles) of Geneva High School senior Andy Francis, 18, as he gets an EKG Thursday at the school. More than 1,100 students signed up for the test, which checks for rhythm abnormalities. Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Volunteer Chuck Miles of Geneva hooks up senior Andy Francis, 18, to an EKG machine inside the Mack Olson Gymnasium Thursday at Geneva High School. More than 1,100 students signed up to get the test to look for rhythm abnormalities as part of the Young Hearts for Life program. Miles' son, Evan, 16, also had the test done.

      Volunteer Chuck Miles of Geneva hooks up senior Andy Francis, 18, to an EKG machine inside the Mack Olson Gymnasium Thursday at Geneva High School. More than 1,100 students signed up to get the test to look for rhythm abnormalities as part of the Young Hearts for Life program. Miles' son, Evan, 16, also had the test done. Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted4/5/2012 4:21 PM

Brian and Kathy Wetters believe no parent should enter a child's room to wake them up only to find their son or daughter died in their sleep of an undiagnosed heart ailment, like they did.

So Thursday, more than 1,100 Geneva High School students were tested for potentially fatal heart abnormalities.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Ryan Wetters, 23, died in 2009 at his parents' house. An autopsy revealed he had suffered a heart rhythm disturbance.

The family decided to use memorial gifts to pay for a Young Hearts for Life screening at his alma mater.

Boys lined up on one side of the Mack Olson Gymnasium, girls on the other, separated by a heavy curtain, to wait their turn for the 4-minute electrocardiograms. (For modesty's sake, the girls' tests were conducted behind individual screens.)

The EKGs detected and recorded electrical activity in the heart, and the heart rate. Parent volunteers, trained by the Midwest Heart Foundation, conducted the tests. Results were then reviewed by physicians.

Those whose results indicated something suspicious were further tested by having an echocardiogram -- an ultrasound picture of their heart.

"I've never even heard of this (sudden cardiac attacks and death)," said senior Peter Archibald, 18, while waiting for his test. "I'd rather know if I have anything or not, and it's free."

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Test results are being sent to parents, and those students whose results indicate the potential of something serious will also receive a telephone call from the Midwest Heart Foundation.

According to Dr. Joseph Marek, founder of the foundation, an EKG can detect about 60 percent of people at risk for sudden cardiac death. And there is a false-positive rate of about 2 percent, he said.

Of problems found, about 30 percent are due to hypercardiomyopathy -- a thickening of the walls of the heart muscle. The thickening distorts the tissue, interfering with electrical conduction, which can lead to the heart stopping, or it beating out of control.

Since 2006, the foundation has screened more than 75,000 teenagers, Marek said.

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