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Heart to Play Program Ends Another Successful Year

In 2013, Licking Memorial Health Systems’ (LMHS) Heart to Play program celebrated its sixth year of providing free cardiac sports screenings to Licking County students.  Last year, more than 973 student athletes from 15 school districts benefitted from the screenings, thanks to the devoted healthcare team of over 80 staff members, including pediatricians, cardiologists, primary care providers, nurses and support staff.  Each year, these dedicated individuals conduct the screenings after regular business hours in May and June.    LMHS also provided free pre-participation sport screenings to approximately 1,200 students during the scheduled events, which included ImPACT concussion screenings.

The Heart to Play program provides each athlete with an electrocardiogram (EKG) screening, which helps to detect previously undiagnosed heart rhythm and some anatomical defects.  Preliminary results found that approximately 8% of those students indicated a cardiac abnormality, resulting in further testing.  Upon physician follow-up, five students were diagnosed with potentially dangerous heart defects.  

One of these students in particular who benefitted from the Heart to Play program is Michael Galiher, a seventh grader at Wilson Middle School.  Michael is no stranger to activity – he loves playing basketball, dirt-biking, and anything outdoors.  His mother, Jennifer, said that Michael has a superb health history, and only took him to visit his primary care physician last summer due to a scheduled routine “well child check-up” and sports physical.  

Because Michael has no family history of heart problems or displays outward signs or symptoms, his primary care provider did not perform an EKG.  However, Jennifer planned to take Michael to one of LMHS’ sports screenings sessions to complete the baseline concussion testing – it was then that she decided to cover all the bases.

“On a whim, I decided to have Michael obtain an EKG test, as well.  It was a fluke that I decided to get it done, even though his doctor didn’t advise it – you could call it a mother’s instinct,” said Jennifer.

The EKG test showed an abnormality, confirmed by Licking Memorial Pediatrician, Diane LeMay, M.D.  Michael’s primary care physician ordered repeat EKGs, and indicated a need for further testing.  Michael was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome (WPW), and was referred to a pediatric cardiologist.  

WPW is a heart disorder in which an abnormal extra electrical pathway between the upper and lower chambers of the heart can lead to a rapid heart rate.  The disorder is extremely dangerous and can lead to cardiac arrest if left untreated.  Michael’s cardiologist recommended an ablation procedure to rectify the harmful condition.    

“As a mom, I was very nervous,” said Jennifer. “Talking to Dr. LeMay eased my fears about the procedure.”  Jennifer said the wealth of experience of the pediatric cardiologist – over 17 years – helped calm her nerves, as well.  

The anxiety ceased after the successful procedure, and Jennifer noted that Michael felt great the morning after.  In fact, since the procedure occurred just before school began in August, Michael was granted a special privilege.  “Due to his restrictions, he wasn’t able to use the stairs at school.  So, for a month, Michael received elevator access, which he was pretty excited about,” said Jennifer.

At his six-week review in September, Michael’s heart procedure was deemed successful, after the completion and careful analysis of two EKGs.  After additional testing, he received medical clearance to return to organized sports, just in time for basketball season to begin.  Jennifer said that he will have annual check-ups to monitor his heart, but is very thankful this did not go undetected.

“It was such a big relief to find out about Michael’s condition,” said Jennifer.  “Not knowing is the most dangerous part.”

Jennifer said she recommends LMHS’ Heart to Play program to the parents of Michael’s friends, to ensure their children are tested, as well.  “I can’t promote it enough – just a few minutes are all it takes to save your child’s life.”

| Posted On : 3/24/2014 8:51:03 AM