contributing writer Kelly Bell

This past Saturday Longview Regional Medical Center (LRMC) provided free heart screenings for local youth aged 14-18. Even at the closing time of noon parents and their youngsters were still arriving for a post-Valentine’s Day tribute to heart health. This is the fourth straight year LRMC has hosted this tribute to good health for young hearts, and more than 1500 East Texas adolescents have availed themselves of this vital resource which LRMC puts on in conjunction with the Championships Hearts Foundation, which is a Texas non-profit agency specializing in health screenings. All area teens involved in athletics, cheerleading, marching band, drill team and other physically demanding extracurricular activities are especially urged to take advantage of this annual event. Young people are not immune to such lethal cardiovascular illnesses as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM.) Eighth grade Judson Middle School footballer and trombone player, Ian McCarthy showed to have his Blue Devil’s quarterback’s heart checked. The recent Super Bowl was a great inducement for him.
“Tom Brady will always be Tom Brady,” he said. “It was a great comeback.”
Ian’s 11th grade big sister Rachel also came for the testing. She is a trumpet player in the Longview High School Lobo band, and wants to make sure she will always be healthy enough to fulfill her dream of becoming a teacher. Mother Amy McCarthy accompanied her children.
“Heart disease runs in my side of the family,” she said. “I decided to have them checked every so often.”
Amy plays the piano, and her husband is a guitarist. This family is keeping a steady beat in more ways than one.
Another health-conscious parent was Troy Moore, who brought his daughter Brilee. Brilee is a freshman at Pine Tree High School, where she plays soccer.
“This is the place to be this morning,” he said.
LRMC representatives kept busy in many ways. Chief Executive Officer Casey Robertson was clear on the objective of the event.
“This is the fourth year of doing this screening, and we want to continue until every teen in East Texas has been screened,” he said. “We appreciate all the cardiologists and many people who volunteer. School districts as far away as Avinger sent students for screening. We always want to stay in touch with our local communities.”
LRMC Chief Operating Officer Anthony Books positively loved giving his time to the morning’s work.
“We love the kids, we love sports, and if we can do something to prevent death and the impact it has on our communities, we will,” he said. “This is something small that goes very far.”
The medical professionals on hand had not only the best intentions, but the best credentials. LRMC resident interventional cardiologist Dr. Jonathan Greifenkamp took time from tending to the kids to explain the significance of heart testing even in very young people.
“Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a genetic heart condition that usually doesn’t impact physical activity, but it can possess an increased role for a potentially fatal rhythm problem that could happen right on the playing field,” he said. “HCM can be difficult to diagnose during a physical examination, but is very easily detected with an echocardiogram.”
The screening consists of a 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG) and a limited two-dimensional echocardiogram to detect potential HCM) which is the leading cause of death in youthful athletes. Both procedures are non-invasive, painless, and when done at clinics and hospitals can cost more than $700. Results are immediate. The American College of Cardiology gives a quality initiative rating to the Championship Hearts screening model.
The Championship Heart Foundation has provided these screenings for more than 17,000 students during the last decade. Approximately 5% have been referred for additional cardiac testing.