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Student heart check program imperative to detect health issues

The County Press

An awful scene recently unfolded when a 10-year-old Southfield girl suddenly collapsed during cheerleading practice and died of unknown causes. First responders were called, and lifesaving measures were attempted — but the 10-year-old girl never regained consciousness.

The family is waiting for the medical examiner’s office to identify the cause of death.

The girl’s death is a reminder to Lapeer County families as the fall sports season nears closer, about the importance of a heart check to determine if a student athlete may have any undiagnosed conditions that could result in injury or death.

Fortunately right here in Lapeer County, McLaren Lapeer Region offers the Anthony Hebert Memorial Student Heart Check Program, which makes heart-screening available for free to all students aged 13 to 17 living in Lapeer County. Younger children are not typically screened because structural abnormalities do not become apparent until later in adolescence.

McLaren Lapeer Region and the Lapeer Optimist Club each made a big commitment to student health and wellness when they founded the Anthony Hebert Memorial Student Heart Check Program in 2020. The Optimists contributed $100,000 to the heart check program.

The noninvasive screening takes 15 to 20 minutes and includes a brief family medical history questionnaire, electrocardiogram (EKG) and 2D echocardiogram. Results of the screening are reviewed by McLaren Lapeer’s staff and experienced cardiologists. The screening takes a comprehensive focus on the heart that a normal sports physical would not offer. It checks for potentially dangerous heart ailments that may raise a student’s risk of sudden cardiac arrest.

The screening is in particular looking for symptoms of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) — a disease in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick, a condition that can make it harder for the heart to pump blood. Treatment may include surgery, an implantable device, or medications to slow or regulate the heart rate.

The ongoing program offers appointments Monday through Friday at a variety of times for the convenience of families to get their child screened.

Anthony Herbert, a 2015 Lapeer High School graduate, died in January 2017 after returning to his dorm room at Northern Michigan University in Marquette following an early morning workout with the school’s football team. Herbert, 20, died of an enlarged heart — a pre-existing cardiac condition neither he nor his family knew he had.

Following Anthony’s sudden and tragic death, the Herbert family and those who loved and knew him have made it their mission to bring awareness to student heart health in the hope that no other family will lose a child to an undiagnosed heart condition.

There is no charge to participate in the student heart check program, but pre-registration is required. To schedule an appointment, call 810-667-5990.

Student heart check program imperative to detect health issues
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