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Decatur to host free heart screening event in Federal Way

A student goes through the heart screening process at a Nick of Time Foundation event. An undetected heart condition is the leading cause of death in young athletes on the playing field.  - Courtesy of Bothell Reporter
A student goes through the heart screening process at a Nick of Time Foundation event. An undetected heart condition is the leading cause of death in young athletes on the playing field.
— image credit: Courtesy of Bothell Reporter

About nine years ago, Decatur High School graduate Logan Davidson found himself in a doctor’s office hooked up to an electrocardiogram, getting his heart tested.

The then-13-year-old went in for a routine sports physical so that he could wrestle for Lakota Middle School.

“We had just switched doctors to a new doctor,” Davidson, now 21, recalls. “This doctor, when he listened to my heart with a stethoscope, he was able to hear the murmur.”

Davidson’s arrhythmia was a symptom of hypertrophic cardio myopathy, a condition that makes him more susceptible to sudden cardiac arrest.

Davidson was told he could no longer run track, wrestle or participate in any other highly competitive sport.

“I was definitely mostly just upset and sad because I really enjoyed wrestling,” he said. “My whole childhood was gone in my mind because I wouldn’t have those things to do but then I found other things to do that I could still participate in, that I enjoy even more.”

Davidson now skateboards and skimboards, a board-sport that involves skimming across the water’s surface toward a wave.

In retrospect, Davidson said he feels different about the screening that may have saved his life.

“I’m grateful they found out just because I’m the kind of person [who is] generally very competitive,” he said, noting that he’s only ever had minor chest pain. “Without [the test] I’m sure something could have happened. Now that I know, I can be cautious.”

And it was this screening that prompted Davidson’s mother, Marianne Davidson, to push for heart testing to be done at Decatur High School.

The high school will have its first Nick of Time heart screening event on May 21, which is open to other students at other schools within Federal Way Public Schools. About 500 students will have the option to receive a free heart screening.

“We just feel like we’re the lucky ones,” she said. “He could have not been diagnosed like so many other athletes. That’s why I got involved with the Nick of Time.”

Decatur High School was on a two-and-a-half year waiting list with the Nick of Time Foundation, an organization dedicated to creating awareness of sudden cardiac arrest among young people and athletes.

Having volunteered at other events, Marianne Davidson said of the 300 to 500 students tested, there’s always a “handful” of students who need follow-ups.

The Nick of Time Foundation and the University of Washington Medical Center conduct the heart screenings for youth ages 14-24, which consist of a heart health survey, an electrocardiogram test and, in some cases, a limited physical exam or echocardiogram. The test results are then reviewed by onsite cardiologists and sports physicians — all volunteers.

“I think Nick of Time is a great organization that’s saving lives and the information they get from the screenings are also going into research and the hope is that someday these screenings will be part of a well child checkup,” Marianne Davidson said. “Every kid should have an electrocardiogram, they should have their heart [testing] done more than just listened to.”

According to Nick of Time, an undetected heart condition is the leading cause of death in young athletes on the playing field.

Nick of Time was founded by Darla Varrenti after her 16-year-old son who loved football, Nicholas, unexpectedly died of sudden cardiac arrest on Labor Day after “stellar performances” in both the varsity and junior varsity games at his high school. The games came after a week of two-a-day practices.

Erin Herringshaw, a Decatur nurse, said she’s aware of two Federal Way students who have died from heart conditions — one from Sacajawea Middle School and another from Thomas Jefferson High School, and five Decatur students caught the condition through screenings.

Herringshaw said there are many spots open and students at Decatur High School will be able to miss class during the screenings, which take place between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., May 21. Students from other schools will be able to screen at 2 p.m., according to Herringshaw.

Parents of students 17 years old and younger need to register, while students 18 or older can register themselves.

To register for this free event, fill out the required form ahead of the event. The forms can be found at schools.fwps.org/decatur/files/2014/05/0330_001.pdf.

For more information on the Nick of Time Foundation, visit nickoftimefoundation.org.

 

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