Heart screenings reach benchmark at Warrenton High School

09/26/2016  

By Sue Cody

 

Play Smart 1Lynique Oveson feels a personal stake in helping students get free heart screenings at Warrenton High School.

 

At age 18, Oveson was a competitive Portland State athlete who pushed herself to the limit. When she passed out a couple of times, she thought she was out of shape, so she pushed herself harder. That was until she collapsed at a track meet at Willamette University.

 

Oveson was rushed to the hospital, given an echocardiogram and stress test and learned that she had had three heart attacks. She was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a condition that causes a rapid heart rate, and in some cases sudden death.

 

“Luckily, I wasn’t one who died of an instant unknown heart condition,” Oveson says.

 

The slim, fit-looking coach and physical science teacher at WHS heard last year of free heart screenings being offered for youth ages 12 to 18 by Play Smart, through Providence Heart and Vascular Institute.

 

Oveson wondered why so few students were signed up. She thought the entire school should be screened, and sent permission forms home with all her weight-lifting students. Word spread, and last year 153 students were screened.

 

Health care professionals say the heart screening does not replace adolescent wellness checkups. They encourage a yearly wellness check by a primary caregiver.

 

Play Smart 4Benchmark reached

 

When WHS student Rachel Dyer stepped up to get an EKG at a Play Smart screening Sept. 14, she became the 10,000th person to be screened by the free program. She was one of 100 WHS students screened that day.

 

“Play Smart screenings aren’t just for athletes,” says Lydia Hibsch, manager of Play Smart. “I am just as concerned about sedentary kids. They could have a heart condition go undetected, also.”

 

Play Smart offers the screenings to all students, no strings or conditions attached, as outreach to the communities Providence serves.

 

The program has visited Clatsop County six times in the past four years, says Hibsch. Seaside High School set a record when 167 students were screened in one day. To date, 10,075 kids have been screened. Of those, 500 have required follow-up exams. If a teen needs an echocardiogram, Play Smart also covers that cost.

 

Parents must sign a consent form for youths 17 and younger; those who are 18 can self-register. All information is sent exclusively to the patient, not the school.

 

The process

 

Staff at St. Vincent Hospital saw a need for heart screenings, which aren’t generally covered by sports physicals or well child visits.

 

Screenings were offered at the hospital, but low participation led Play Smart staff to realize it was more effective to go into the schools. They started working with school nurses.

 

“It is extremely successful,” Hibsch says. In addition to schools, clinics and hospitals, Play Smart is now partnering with Portland Parks and Recreation Department. Screenings are offered at community centers where teens gather.

 

In addition to the EKG, youth have their blood pressure, height and weight measured.

 

The EKG screening does not involve any needles, but attaches electrodes to the skin of an individual, and tracks the electrical activity. St. Vincent downloads the images to cards that are read by cardiologists. The information is sent to the individual and stored in Electronic Medical Records (EMR) accessible by doctors and patients.

 

Play Smart 2Wide-spread support

 

Students, health care workers, even truck drivers volunteer in support of Play Smart.

 

Many of the technicians at the Play Smart events are Providence employees who volunteer their time or are on-call. Tiffanie Young, supervisor for Respiratory Therapy at Providence Seaside Hospital, lives in Warrenton and is thrilled to offer this service to students in her community.

 

“This isn’t just a job, it’s a calling,” Hibsch says of all the technicians and volunteers who help at Play Smart events.

 

When Hibsch asked moving and storage company, First, Inc. if Play Smart could get a discount on transporting their mobile clinic, the owner liked the program so much, he offered free transportation. That means delivering the equipment, screens, EKG machines and materials and setting them up the night before an event and picking them up afterward.

 

“This is a labor of love for them,” Hibsch says of the 118 events and 4,100 miles First, Inc. has covered.

 

WHS Principal Rod Heyen says that many sports physicals don’t uncover the nuances of a heart condition. “It’s important to spot those problems.

 

“This is a fantastic opportunity to do the right thing,” Heyen says. “And the price is right.”

 

If you would like to host a Play Smart presentation or volunteer, contact Lydia Hibsch at lydia.hibsch@providence.org or by calling (503) 216-5739. For more information, visit www.playsmartgetscreened.org.