Recently we introduced you to Paige Hemmah who went into cardiac arrest while she was cheering routine her senior year. She was born with a rare heart abnormality and went undetected for 18 years. Nancy Naeve Brown asked an expert at the Avera Heart Hospital about heart screenings for student athletes and when and if kids should get them.
Paige Hemmah is an intern at the Avera Heart Hospital. At the age of 24, she is also a patient here. When Paige was a senior at Roslyn High School she went into cardiac arrest while performing a cheerleading routine at half-time of a basketball game in Sisseton. If she had not gotten CPR immediately, she likely wouldn't be here today. Cardiac Electrophysiologist Dr. Paul Olson with North Central Heart is now Paige's doctor he says even though cases like this get a lot of attention, and rightfully so, it is uncommon for kids to code.
Dr. Paul Olson says, "It's quite rare. There is an incidence of 1 in 100,000 or even 1 in 200,000. It's less common in teens that aren't athletes. The intense physical activity with competitive athletics can cause a change with the high level of adrenaline can cause the heart to be more susceptible to abnormal electrical activity."
It turns out Paige was born with a rare heart defect. Her coronary artery wasn't connected correctly depriving half her heart with vital oxygen.
Paige says, "I was an active teenager. No signs, no symptoms no chest pain, no shortness of breath. It was out of the blue."
Dr. Olson says unfortunately that's the case for a lot of the athletes who go into cardiac arrest. Many don't know there is a problem, until there is a problem.
Dr. Olson says, "The current recommendations are to not perform an electrocardiogram or echo in general unless an abnormality is found. A lot of those abnormalities may be identified by the athlete themselves like abnormal heart racing with exercise, excessive shortness of breath, chest pain, passing out spells or near passing out spells especially when exercising. Many times athletes may not report the symptoms because they don't want to be disqualified from their sport."
That wasn't the case for Paige. Her primary doctor noticed a slight murmur her senior year that wasn't there before. After more tests they discovered her heart defect, she had surgery to repair it, but as luck would have it she went into cardiac arrest "after" being cleared for activity 2 months later. Paige loves cheerleading and volleyball but not enough to die over. That's why she is getting in the business of getting out the word about heart health and knowing when to get screened.
Dr. Olson says student athletes really need to know their family history to know if they are predisposed to heart issues. If they are they need to discuss that with their doctor.
To make an appointment for Planet Heart call 877-AT-AVERA or visit http://www.avera.org/heart-hospital/index.aspx