“Back in February of last year, my son and daughter brought a letter home from their high school (Metea) saying that Young Hearts for Life (YH4L) was offering free ECGs for the students. Our children have always gone for their yearly physicals, so I did not expect anything to be wrong, but the screening was FREE, so why not?
Nick had been playing baseball and football for years. Recently, he had complained that he was short of breath. We took him to the doctor and she thought he might have asthma, so she put him on an inhaler. Two weeks later, Nick complained of pain in his chest. Since a doctor had already evaluated him, we assumed it was the aches and pains that go along with being a 2-sport athlete.
Both Nick and his sister went to the screening that Young Hearts for Life offered during the school day. Since they both had been given a clean bill of health, we were very surprise to find out that Nick’s ECG showed a condition called Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome (WPW). This is one of the conditions which can cause Sudden Cardiac Death.
After a number of doctor visits and a surgical procedure (ablation), Nick has been able to return to sports. We are very grateful to Dr. Marek and the Young Hearts for Life program. If it wasn’t for YH4L, Nick may have someday become a tragic statistic. Instead, today he is back on the football field and we are thankful the Young Hearts for life program was at our school.”
Jill and Chuck Bartosz
In the fall, Young Hearts for Life® came to Nazareth Academy to provide free screening EKG’s. At that time our son Patrick was a junior and MaryClaire was a freshman. While all four of our children had regular physicals and were healthy, we felt since the test was convenient and free we may as well have them tested. After all, it seems like almost weekly you hear stories of young athletes collapsing while participating in sports.
A few days later we received a call that MaryClaire had an abnormal EKG that would need further evaluation. This came as a shock because there was no history of heart disease in our family. After meeting with a cardiologist she was given the diagnosis of prolonged QT syndrome. This is a condition that can cause the heart to go into a potentially fatal arrhythmia after it receives an adrenaline shock during strenuous exercise or by being suddenly startled. After further testing and consultation with her doctor MaryClaire had to start medication and the decision was made to have a cardiac defibrillator placed as an added protection.
MaryClaire had her surgery in December of 2014. While she no longer participates in the competitive sports of cross country and soccer, she has stepped into the management role of both teams. These lifestyle adjustments have been difficult for her to accept at times, but she has made the best of it and realizes that all this is to help protect her from a potentially life threatening situation.
We feel the opportunity for our children to be tested through the Young Hearts For Life® program offered at Nazareth Academy has been a blessing in our lives. This program may have averted a life-threatening situation for MaryClaire and for that we are truly thankful!
Kevin and Patty McKenna
District 204: Neuqua Valley, Metea Valley, & Waubonsie Valley High Schools
Well, another successful year for the program in District 204. As I review the year for the testing, probably had more challenges to the program than we have ever had with weather and schedule changes. But, it is a tribute to you and the YHFL organization to adapt to those changes and be as successful as it was. I am always impressed by the quality of the staff at these events and the efficiency that seems to permeate the day. But, more importantly, I always sense a deep caring and passion for the students and what the staff is there to accomplish. We always have to remember that all of you do this almost on a weekly basis, if not daily, and to continue to demonstrate that desire is an asset that should never be taken for granted.
On behalf of the Indian Prairie Educational Foundation, I want to thank your organization for the dedication to a great year and look forward to the next session in 2017.
Indian Prairie Educational Foundation
West Aurora High School
Just wanted to send a note to thank you. After you called my wife yesterday to share the results of our son’s screening at WAHS, we of course freaked. We worked with his primary care physician to get referred to a pediatric cardiologist for follow up. As we were scrambling due to impending baseball tryouts, we were able to get an appointment today with a specialist. After the echocardiogram, it turned out that our son is okay. I would have much rather gone through the due diligence of making sure our son was okay then not have had the scan and just assume that everything is fine and have tragedy strike. Thank you again.
West Aurora High School
In August of 2013 Saint Charles East High School sent out a form for a free EKG. I was confident my son was healthy since he had been involved in multiple sports for 12 plus years but thought for free why not have him tested. On the same form I had the opportunity to volunteer with YH4L to help at East. I decided to give my time because I felt the program was so important. On October 18th I was trained on the EKG machine with many volunteers, we practiced until we felt confident with the machine. On October 19th I showed up for my “shift “and was assigned to a booth. As we ran EKG’s on students and had the nurse’s approve the test before we released students, we became fairly proficient at the task at hand. My son, Aiden Wright, was assigned to my booth. He came in with a lot of questions. Which was strange for my son, he generally is not one to have anxiety about things like this but there was of course “talk” in the halls about kids having to have the test redone or whatever. I tried to answer questions and reassure him that most likely it was not a problem for those kids but a precautionary measure to make sure they were tested correctly.
We ran the test on my son, my volunteer partner handed the results to the nurse. The nurse said to run his test again. We thought nothing of it and ran it again. This time I walked the results out and she said “let’s try a different machine”. At this point I was getting a little nervous and told the nurse that it was my son. She was very reassuring and did the 3rd test herself. My son was sent back to class and finished his school day.
I received a call from YH4L by 4PM the following Monday. It is amazing how one phone call can turn your world upside down. My son was diagnosed with WPW, Wolfe Parkinson White. I had never heard of this before but immediately I was scared since we were talking about my 15 year olds heart!
The nurse advised for him to stop all activities until I could get him to a doctor. I know the nurse covered many details but all I heard was get him to the doctor ASAP. The scary part was as the nurse and I were on the phone my son was on the football field practicing, as he has done every fall for the last 9 years and I had no way of reaching him to tell him to stop! By the time I would have driven there practice would have been over. I could not wait to hear his voice when practice was over and he would call to tell me he was on his way home!
Aiden has had regular doctor visits since he was born. He has had every physical necessary for school and sports. He was born with this condition and we were totally unaware. He currently plays baseball as a catcher and football he is a quarterback. His heart was broken in every sense of the phrase at the thought of never getting to play again! He has always been considered extremely healthy, so this news hit us very hard. Aiden’s condition would have gone unnoticed if it weren’t for this program!!! I will forever be grateful to YH4L for truly saving my son’s life! His condition was one of the reasons that Dr. Marek created this program. WPW is the condition that could cause a heart attack without warning, it is one of the easier “problems” to detect and repair.
Aiden had surgery March 13th, 2014 and I am happy to report he is healthy and free of WPW. He missed 2 days of school and about 8 days of baseball…….that is only because he is a catcher and squatting was not that comfortable after having 7 catheters in your thighs!
Thank you, Dr. Marek and the entire team for creating this program and saving Aiden’s life!!!!
With sincere gratitude~
William, Regina and Aiden W.
Christ The King Jesuit College Prep School
People always say God works in mysterious ways. …Sometimes we see the truth in this statement, sometimes we blindly believe it.
Recently, one of our students, told us that, during his YH4L test, doctors found that he has Wolff-Parkinson-White disease. I was moved in how my 1st period responded. Immediately, they started praying and telling this student how much they love him. In fact, one student said, “While we were all heart-broken last year over our friend and classmate —-, because of him, —- found out that he’ll be okay. God is mysterious and we questioned Him last year, but now we know that our friend and classmate has saved —, so we have to trust in God.”
Another one of our students has also been to the doctor and is now working through an issue detected at school by your awesome team of volunteers. You and your team do great work. Please know how much we appreciate all your efforts in support of our young men and women.
Mr. C. Martin
Christ the King Jesuit College Preparatory School
Barrington High School
Thank you for bringing the Young Hearts for Life Cardiac Screening Program to Barrington High School once again. What an incredible program you have put together, Dr. Marek. I am no less amazed on the third time than I was the first time I went to observe an event at another school. The whole concept of YH4L is genius. Parent and community volunteers partnered with committed and caring medical staff in a high school setting–what a powerful combination. I am hoping the trend catches around the country to help keep all young adults safe.
The support we received while planning and preparing for this event was invaluable. Not only were you available, Johneen, to attend meetings and field many calls and emails but you even took the extra step to talk to parents at our Parent Night. Your dedication is evident in everything you do to make each event possible. I can only imagine all of the behind-the-scenes things you do to make it all happen.
We are grateful to have been part of your program yet again. To have such a devoted group of professionals at our school for the sole purpose of keeping our students safe is humbling. We will continue to work to grow the event and work out the kinks so we can again offer this to our future students.
Mrs. J. Stearney & Barrington High School Families & Staff
I signed Noah up for the EKG test that they do at the high school every other year. I then received a call from Young Hearts for Life stating that they found something wrong and would like to send the results to his doctor. His doctor, whom we think is great, called me in less than 10 minutes and told me that Noah cannot participate in any sports or gym class until after he is cleared by a cardiologist (he is not so happy with this as you can well imagine). I took him to the cardiologist and it was confirmed that he has Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome and needs to have a procedure to repair it. The syndrome is this. Everyone has a pathway in their heart which the electrical currents (layman description) travel through making the heart beat normally. Noah has an extra pathway and so the currents are looping through one pathway to the other and not flowing downward as they should be. This causes his heart to race at abnormal speeds, especially during exercise, which can cause him to pass out and other bad things happen that we don’t even want to think about. There have been many times, over the years, when after exercising or a good soccer practice Noah has had to stop because his heart was racing and he felt lightheaded. We always just thought he was dehydrated. Noah was born with this extra pathway so it was probably his norm for so long that he really didn’t realize there was anything wrong. Today we met with the cardiac surgeon and have scheduled the procedure. They will put a catheter through his vein and will put the prod (for a lack of better words) up the catheter and will burn the extra pathway closed. He is hoping to do this through Noah’s arm which will mean just a few days recovery period. If he cannot then he will go through his groin and that will be a 4 week recovery time. You know which one we are hoping for….. Noah’s only concern was whether the surgery would hurt. The cardiologist put him at ease by telling him that he will be asleep during the entire procedure. When I talked to Noah later about how he felt about everything, he said “the doctor said I will be asleep the whole time and when it’s done I will be good as new and can go back to soccer….I’m good”.
Huskies Hockey Club
This was a tremendous idea! I’m sure this event will save the life of one or more Huskies players over the years. Our family is grateful to the Huskies organization for thinking so highly of our players.
Another example as to why we are proud we joined the Huskies this year. The folks that ran the service were friendly, personable, gentle, and responsive. Their lives touched by family members who experienced life-saving discoveries from the same service.
Thank you for setting up this important program for the kids. I was very impressed that it was offered free of charge and those running it last night were very nice, and very efficient. We were in and out!
I wish it was offered for adults! I’d pay for it!
Great job by volunteers. Made it all very easy. Good work all around. Thanks!
I can only say positive things about it! Great people who ran it, quick exam! Informative staff…answered all my questions. Thanks to the Huskies for offering it!
My wife and I would like to send a note of sincere appreciation for the Doctors and Staff of Young Hearts for Life, who volunteered their valuable time and expertise to make sure that our young skaters are heart healthy. The whole process was quick, easy, professional, and much appreciated.
My son was in gym class and mentioned to his instructor that his heart didn’t feel quite right. Fortunately, Young Hearts for Life was at the school doing ECGs. Jonathon was tested and we found out he had HCM (Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy). Prior to the screening done by Young Hearts for Life, we were unaware of any heart condition. We subsequently had the family tested and found that one of my daughters also has HCM. We are now in a program where our physician is monitoring their conditions on a regular basis. We hope that their conditions do not get worse, but are thankful that we have identified this potential risk early and can monitor it. We are thankful for those who support Young Hearts for Life.
We are the parents of a student who received a free ECG at Glenbard South High School. We are so happy we decided to give permission to Midwest Heart Foundation to allow our daughter to undergo the testing. It is because of Young Hearts for life that our daughter is alive today. Our daughter was found to have an abnormal heart beat called WPW (Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome). After many doctor appointments, Samantha underwent a cardiac procedure called an ablation. As our daughter healed and resumed her school days, she had much success. This program is such a blessing to our family and the school system.
Mr. and Mrs. Daniel D.
This fall we dropped our son Alex off at Bradley University. Most of the freshman parents were struggling to maintain their composure knowing their children were leaving the nest. While we shared their emotions, there was also elation that we had the opportunity to be here at all. Without the work of Young Hearts for Life, we are not sure this would have been possible. Here is our brief story:
Alex has always been fit and athletic. When Alex was a sophomore, Young Hearts for Life came to Downers Grove North High School for testing. Alex’s EKG showed some potential abnormalities and it was recommended we consult with our family physician as a follow up. The doctor ran another EKG and believed Alex to be within normal range. Concurrently our niece Elizabeth was leaving for Washington University. College was going well from both an academic and athletic standpoint until one morning when she simply did not wake up. Thorough autopsies were performed and literally no pathology was found either from the standpoint of a congenital abnormality or through any potential personal behaviors which could have caused or contributed to her tragic death. Despite all of the tests available, her parents were forced to bury their daughter with the added pain of not knowing why. Concurrently Alex was experiencing heart pains while engaged in strenuous physical activity. We sought and were given a referral to Dr. Marek at Midwest Heart Specialists. Dr. Marek ran another EKG and did determine Alex had Long QT. Understanding his limitations, Alex eased his way into the track season. As his activity rose, he began to experience more stabbing types of pains in his heart. Dr. Marek ordered additional tests to see if they could get to the root cause of this as it was not a typical symptom of Long QT. Given his core fitness, stress tests showed nothing. A few more tests were run and Alex continued to push himself, ultimately running the mile in 4:59. Shortly after this Alex had a CT angiogram, which showed an arterial anomaly. All physical activity was stopped. It would be necessary for Alex to undergo surgery to correct this defect. The following Thursday, Alex was on the operating table. Nothing really prepares you for seeing you son wheeled away.
Alex responded exceptionally and was sent home with a day and a half after a 6 hour operation. After a few pretty rough days at home, the recuperation process proceeded well beyond our wildest expectations. He can now concentrate on getting his biomedical engineering degree and moving on with his life. But not for the efforts of Young Hearts for Life, we cannot be certain Alex would be here with us today. While it is entirely speculative, we cannot discount the potential of whether this could have changed things with Elizabeth as well. Though genetic testing one of Alex’s other cousins was found to have Long QT and can take the needed steps to prevent potential tragedy from striking again. While Alex was in surgery, I had the strangest feeling that we were actually blessed. While some would see this as odd, looking back among the running, swimming, mountain climbing, bungee jumping and countless other physical activities, Alex was still here with us. Everything was caught in time, which is nothing short of a miracle.
Mr. and Mrs. B.
We are very thankful for the screenings in District 204 where our youngest son, Russell, was found to have an abnormal ECG during the academic school year, 2008-2009. Russell moved to college in 2010 knowing that his repeat ECG that August had changed since his initial screening. Thanks to Dr. Marek and Dr. Saleem, he is aware that his arrhythmia put him at a low risk for having any difficulties. Russell also knows, however, not to ignore any symptoms.
Update on Russell’s story:
In May, 2013, Russell had an ablation for WPW at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital. We celebrated his college graduation this May, 2014, one year after his ablation. He is now beginning his new career in the field of actuarial science with a bright and healthy future ahead of him thanks to YH4L. Russell happens to be pretty good at understanding stats and realizes how lucky he is and how important it is to get the message out that ECG screenings are worth it!
Dr. Marek came to our school to explain why it was important to have an ECG screening done. This was a good thing, because before this, we weren’t sure why we needed it or what an ECG was. We were shown a video so we would know what to expect. Dr. Marek also showed us some newspaper clippings talking about how some students in our area have died from conditions that could be found on an ECG. On the day of the screening, everyone was so nice and made sure we were comfortable. I would recommend that all students have this done.
In April of 2009, my son Cameron participated in the screening at Neuqua Valley High School. Cameron had had a history of seizures in the past, but they had not been associated with any cardiac condition. We were surprised when we received a phone call telling us that his ECG was abnormal and we needed to follow up with our family doctor. Cameron ended up being treated by an electophysiologist for WPW. In August of 2009, Cameron underwent a 7 ½ hour procedure to correct his cardiac condition. Since that time, Cameron has returned to working out and continues to compete with his father and brother. He will now follow up with his doctor every 2 years. Cameron is working hard in college. We are very grateful to the Young Hearts for Life Screening Program for coming to our school and helping our son not become a statistic. We encourage all schools to participate in this very worthy program.
I can’t thank you enough for having the free heart screening available at Neuqua. It was a life saver! When I was in the gym, I didn’t know what to expect from the results of my heart test. I was alerted that my parents would be contacted and the results were sent to my doctor. She sent me right away to a cardiologist. As the test results were analyzed, I was told that I had a heart condition known as Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome (WPW). WPW is when an extra growth of cells is created in a section of the heart, particularly the chambers. In my case, there was an overgrowth of cells located in my lower left chamber. Luckily, it was caught very early on. I was told that I would have to undergo an ablation, and, on August 13, 2009, I was taken into surgery to have the overgrowth of cells tested to see if they were active or not. It took seven hours and thirty minutes to finish my surgery because the cells were active. What they did was, literally, zap out the overgrowth of cells. For six weeks, I couldn’t work out at all. I want to thank all of your team at the Young Hearts Screening at Neuqua, I, now, have a healthy heart and I have resumed my normal life. Even a year after my heart condition was cured, I still am forever in your debt for how you saved my life.
I became involved with Midwest Heart Foundation’s Young Hearts for Life program shortly after my own daughter, Katie, was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect. Katie is a success story. She had an ablation procedure done and is completely healthy today. Having been involved with Young Hearts for Life the past 4 years has given me a sense of purpose. Working with the kids, hearing them laugh, seeing them smile, talking to them, assuring them – brightens my day. When you hear them talk of their future plans, or the game they will be playing later, or the club that they are president of, you realize how precious these young adults are. They are just beginning their lives and have so many hopes and dreams. As a volunteer with Young Hearts for Life, I know I play a small part in making sure they ALL get a chance to achieve those dreams.
Chris S. -YH4L Volunteer
I signed our son up for a free ECG at Montini High School, not expecting any bad news. Jon had never experienced any signs of heart problems. Because Jon had an EKG that day, he was diagnosed with a potentially life threatening heart condition that often goes undetected. He underwent a surgical procedure called ablation and has completely recovered from the procedure. The cardiologist who did the ablation told us that 60% of the time, these types of cardiac conditions are diagnosed via an autopsy. We thank Dr. Marek and Midwest Heart for the vision to implement Young Hearts for Life.
Mr. and Mrs. W.
I am a student who was tested with an ECG when you came to my high school. Luckily my test showed that I had Long QT Syndrome before it was too late. I would like to thank you so much for helping me find out about it. Me and my family are so grateful.
Konrad M. (student)
I recently had the opportunity to volunteer for the Young Hearts for Life program. This is a top rated program. Everything was done in such a professional manner. The students were explained the procedure and their privacy was put ahead of everything else. As a volunteer, we were treated with respect and taught why it is so important for our children to be screened. We all want to thank Young Hearts for Life and all those who worked so hard to bring this program to our school. I would volunteer with them anytime.
Danny graduated before the Young Hearts for Life program came to his school. I can’t help but wonder, “if only” … We lost our son to Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM). Dan was tall and thin, with a radiant smile and a wonderful laugh. He showed o warning signs to tell us that something was wrong. Because of HCM, Danny was gone in an instant. Now life is divided into before and after. Our children belong to our future. We do not visualize our future without them. I miss Dan every day.
If I could be granted 3 wishes, obviously the first would be to have Danny back and healthy. My second wish is that no other parent ever knows what it is like to lose a child. My third wish is that every student at every school participates in the Young Hearts for Life screening program. It’s too late to save Danny. But please know how much it means to me that you are working so hard to save lives. Some people make creative, helpful additions to our culture. This is what I believe Young Hearts for Life is doing. From the bottom of this grieving mother’s heart, I thank you and I am so very proud to be connected with Young Hearts for Life.
“Our daughter had an ECG as part of the Young Hearts for Life screening at Glenbard North High School. I received a call from Dr. Marek the afternoon of the screening. I was told that although Collette’s ECG was abnormal, it did not show changes that suggested she was at risk for sudden cardiac death. Dr. Marek explained that the findings might be within normal range, but it should be brought to the attention of our family doctor especially if she was having any health issues.
In fact, we were concerned about Collette. Her hands were shaky: she would sleep only a couple of hours each night and her school performance was suffering. Because of the concern about her ECG at the screening, we saw our family physician. Testing was done and she was diagnosed with an over active thyroid (Grave’s Disease). Collette was started on medication and received radiation therapy. She can sleep now and her concentration has improved so much so that her school performance has improved also. We are happy that she was tested and grateful that her illness, previously undetected, was discovered. She is attending college and doing well.
How do you thank someone who has given you a second chance at life? Many people have never been in this situation, but I have. Back when I was a freshman at Downers Grove South High School, I was given a letter stating the Midwest Heart Foundation was visiting our school to offer free EKG’s to students through their Young Hearts for Life program. I showed the letter to my mom who immediately said that I should get one. I disputed this because I thought that it was unnecessary to do. My mother reassured me that getting an EKG is really a simple task. The letter also explained just how easy it was to get an EKG and that made me feel better. So I agreed. On the day of the Young Hearts for Life event there were many other kids that were also getting EKG’s. It was so amazing to see just how fast it took and nobody appeared to be uncomfortable afterwards, so I was not nervous at all.
Within a few minutes I was done and on my way back to class.
One week later my mother received a phone call from Midwest Heart Foundation stating that my test was abnormal. Abnormal? Me? This was really upsetting to me. I was given a preliminary diagnosis of Long QT Syndrome, a condition that can stop my heart at any time without any warning.
My family had to be tested also because of this being inherited and their tests proved my mother also had it and never knew it. My sister was fine. This was devastating news! After the EKG’s were found to be suspicious, I was told that I could no longer do the things that I, as a normal teenager, loved to do until we knew exactly what this was. Swimming, competitive sports, roller coasters, haunted houses just to name a few. But since the diagnosis was confirmed I, knew I could never return to my old life again. The day I was told I had Long QT Syndrome is a day that will forever be etched in my mind because it was the day that changed my life forever. After a few months of experimenting with medication, my family and I made the difficult decision to have a cardio defibrillator implanted in my chest. This device will not cure this condition, but if my heart goes into a potentially fatal arrythmia, it will jump start my heart back up. I had my defibrillator implanted on December 3, 2009 and that brings me to today…
All I know is that if it wasn’t for The Midwest Heart Foundation Young Hearts for Life program, I might not be here today talking about this. They saved my life and gave me that second chance I was talking about. Now it’s my turn to help save lives. I want to help spread the word that The Young Hearts for Life program is the best thing that has ever happened to me and everyone should follow my example and be tested today. Who knows, they may save your life too!