Heart Screens for Teens

Heart Screens for Teens

Norcross student works to raise awareness of heart defects with screening event

Kyle Ahrens’ independent study project just might save a life. The Norcross High sophomore has launched a campaign at his school to educate students and their parents about Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD), what causes heart-related deaths that can strike seemingly healthy teens, and how to detect the underlying heart abnormalities that can cause SCD.

He’s hoping that at least 100 of his Norcross classmates— and some of their younger brothers and sisters at nearby Pinckneyville and Summerour middle schools— will take advantage of an April 17 event where they can complete a risk assessment and get a low-cost echocardiogram. (Mountain View High is holding a heart screen event on April 24 as well.)

“[A heart screen is] an ultrasound of the heart that uses sound waves to assess the structure of the heart and to determine if there are any abnormalities that might cause SCD,” Kyle says of the procedure. He points out that the 10-minute exam is painless and non-invasive. “No medications are required to take the test and there is no exposure to radiation.”

Working with the non-profit Heart Screens for Teens, Kyle can offer the screening for just $58, considerably less expensive than the usual $800-plus sticker price. Working with community members, Kyle is raising funds to cover the cost of the heart screen for students with financial need. He’s also recruiting friends to help staff the Heart Screens event and to drum up participants for the screenings.

The awareness campaign and screening event are part of Kyle’s Personal Project, a requirement for student’s participating in the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (IB/MYP) at the school. IB students create a project around a topic of interest that shows the skills they’ve developed and ties into “areas of interaction,” such as community and service, health and social education, environment, and human ingenuity. Students work with a faculty mentor. For Kyle’s project, he also worked with representatives from Heart Screens for Teens and Project S.A.V.E at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to organize his screening event and develop educational materials.
Response plan, CPR, AEDs all lifesavers
In the event of a heart attack or other first aid emergency, Gwinnett schools and other facilities are equipped to respond. Every school and GCPS facility has adults on staff who have been trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), first aid, and the use of automated external defibrillators or AEDs. Every school and building has an AED on site. Larger facilities have multiple AEDs. Read more...

So, why this cause and this project? As a soccer player, Kyle wants to stay healthy himself and has an interest in medicine, but it’s more than that. “I decided on this particular project because every year I read or hear in the media about teenagers who die from this disease,” explains Kyle. “If the education and screening I provide to students through my project prevents one teenager from dying from SCD, then I feel that I have done something very meaningful.”