A heart-y day at Fort pumps greater health awareness into school It’s a nightmare for any athlete, parent, school, or community: A healthy young student collapses. The heart quits beating. Blood stops flowing to vital organs, including the brain. Time becomes precious. If a normal heart rhythm is not restored within minutes, death is likely.
Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), the leading killer of young athletes, has become a reality in communities including Vancouver. However, the risks are often difficult to detect, and many students aren’t screened for them.
On May 22, that changed for 328 students from Fort Vancouver, Hudson’s Bay, and Evergreen high schools who received free heart screenings and consultations with doctors and residents from the University of Washington, Peace Health, Group Health Cooperative, and Oregon Health & Science University. In advance of a new law that will require CPR and AED training in high schools statewide, the students also learned how to deliver chest compressions and operate defibrillators.
The screenings were part of a new health-focused series of events called Heart Your Health: Stay Strong, Live Long organized by the Fort Vancouver High School (FVHS) Medical Arts magnet, with assistance from students, the Hope Heart Institute, Quinn Driscoll Foundation, Nick of Time Foundation, and Clark County Public Health. The events were sponsored by Wal-Mart, Kaiser Permanente, and the Southwest Washington League of United Latin American Citizens.
“Your heart is something you usually take for granted. It’s important to be aware of any glitches,” said Medical Arts magnet coordinator and Fort teacher Colleen Dunegan of the decision to emphasize heart health.
For Matt Delisle, a track and basketball player, that message was clear. “I’m going to pay more attention to anything that’s wrong with me and be sure to get it checked out,” he said on the day of the screenings.
That night, students returned to FVHS with their families for the Heart Your Health Fair. Parents and community members had the opportunity to receive free biometric screenings and win prizes. The event also included a Zumba class, basketball shootout, prizes, and exhibitors representing community organizations and businesses. Dinner was provided by FVHS culinary arts students, who met with Seattle Seahawks Executive Chef Mac McNabb the day before to learn how to make healthy turkey meatballs to serve at the fair.
Heart Your Health left participants with a new appreciation for making wise lifestyle choices and careful monitoring. But perhaps the most important outcome was the 21 recommendations for follow-up that resulted from the screenings. Twenty-one nightmares potentially averted. Said Dunegan, “If we’ve saved even one life, it’s worth it.”
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