Heart screenings for young people offered in Grand Prairie

The Grand Prairie YMCA hosted a heart screening event for Living For Zachary, which is a charity dedicated to screening young people ages 12-22 for heart abnormalities that could lead to Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). All COVID precautions were in effect, as staff, volunteers, kids and parent had to keep masks on and follow the six-foot rule.

This special screening method was developed by Baylor Scott & White Heart Hospital in Plano and the event is generally held in Plano and Denton. This year, they branched out to Grand Prairie to reach more kids. The YMCA offered a room with volunteers to watch younger children while participants were being screened and their parents were with them.

Living for Zachary is named for Zachary (Zac) Troy Schrah, who tragically collapsed and died at the age of 16 from SCA on April 2, 2009 while at football practice at Plano East High School.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest typically strikes suddenly, with no warning or physical symptoms. Zac’s family learned later that he had an undiagnosed condition called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM), which is a congenital heart disease. HCM is a common cause of SCA in young people, especially athletes.

HCM is an ailment where the heart muscle thickens, and as a result, blood has trouble making it out of the heart, forcing the heart to work harder to pump blood. HCM also makes it tougher for the heart muscle to relax, which would allow it to be filled with blood.

Living for Zachary is part of Zac’s legacy. His career goal had been to become a doctor, and while that didn’t happen, many lives will be saved though the organization’s screening efforts.

One of Living for Zachary’s goals came from a quote taken from an essay that Zac wrote: “Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.”

The screening that was offered was not a typical heart screening. Baylor Scott & White expanded the traditional screening to include: A blood pressure screening, an electrocardiogram, an SCA risk health questionnaire (AHA recommended) and offered limited 2-D echocardiograms. The results of these tests will be looked at and interpreted by a board-certified cardiologist.

The screening process is described by a young man whose life was saved by Living for Zachary. To view it, visit https://youtu.be/rTDk9Sm7aGE.

This was a preliminary screening, as anyone that was determined to be “at-risk” for SCA were referred for further testing and examinations with one of the Baylor Scott & White’s cardiologists. They made sure that participants were aware of the fact that the screening was not to take the place of a doctor’s exam.

The Living for Zachary program also offers CPR training, education about SCA and Automated External Defibrillator (AED) placement. Many businesses have AEDs in their lobby or hallways, so it is important to understand how they work. AEDs function as a defibrillator and will send electric shocks to help a hindered heart.

While SCA sometimes offers no warnings, here are some things to look for. If you or your child is experiencing any of the following symptoms, get them to a doctor or cardiologist immediately:

  • Fainting or seizure during or after physical activity
  • Fainting or seizure resulting from excitement, distress or being startled
  • Chest pain or discomfort or a racing heartbeat
  • Unexplained fainting or seizures
  • Unusual shortness of breath
  • Unusual fatigue/tiredness
  • Dizziness/lightheadedness during or after physical activity

Stay safe and healthy! If you’d like to learn more about any of the Living for Zachary services, visit their website at LivingForZachary.org.

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