By Ryan Ostry

Nearly 2K South students receive cardiac screenings

Downers Grove South gets opportunity of a lifetime


Last updated 10/2/2019 at 12:19pm

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About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year, which comes out to one in every four deaths.

Aware of those numbers, Downers Grove South did something to try and help and prevent those statistics from rising.

Downers Grove South High School had 1,936 students screened through the Young Hearts for Life (YH4L) Cardiac Screening Program, in order to take more precautions and find out if they are at risk for cardiac problems.

"[YH4L] is an organization that started in 2006 by Dr. Joseph Marek," said Program Director Kathy Marek. "It's considered a charitable foundation and we go to area high schools to screen students for symptoms that could cause sudden cardiac death."

YH4L provides a heart screening called an electrocardiogram (ECG) to identify high school students at risk for sudden cardiac death, and to increase the public's awareness of this issue.

Recording the electrical activity of the heart, using electrodes attached to the skin, can detect approximately 60 percent of the abnormalities or "markers" from these heart conditions that are associated with sudden cardiac death, which a stethoscope cannot detect.

"You sometimes here about students who in the football field or basketball court who collapse suddenly and have died and these are usually by conditions which can be detected in the ECG," Kathy Marek said. "Even in Europe for the past 35 years they have screened students over the age of 12 in high school and college age where they screen them every couple years with the ECG."

While Downers Grove South students have the privilege, they're not the only ones.

YH4L has screened more than 220,000 students for conditions that cause sudden cardiac death. 

Joseph Marek, an internationally recognized cardiologist, has taught physicians across America how to run screenings for students and athletes.  

More than 16,000 community volunteers have been trained to provide students with free ECGs through YH4L.

To date, more than 2,400 students screened through YH4L have been identified as "at risk" students. 

"The nice part about this is we do train students the night before to perform the ECG," Kathy Marek said. "Dr. Marek wanted to make sure this would be available to all students and not just athletes."

YH4L is able to provide these screenings free of charge to students with parental permission because of sponsors including the Kenneth Brooks Holland Memorial Fund, Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital, District 99 Education Foundation and Young Hearts for Life Donors.

Hospitality donors, who provided food and drinks for volunteers, included Chick-fil-A Willowbrook, Zoup! Woodridge and Peet's Coffee Downers Grove.

"We just want to save lives, that's why we're all doing this," Kathy Marek said. "Training students, all the volunteers and sponsors play a large role in our success, and we continue to look forward to keep doing it."


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