LaPorte High School students receive free heart screenings after football player's death

October 22, 2013 (LA PORTE, Ind.)

An autopsy determined West died from right ventricular cardiomyopathy, or an enlarged heart. Medical experts say it's not clear whether a test like this would have prevented the sudden death of the 17-year-old, but early detection could save lives.

On Monday night at the IU Health LaPorte Hospital, technicians are performing echocardiograms and electrocardiograms on student athletes and teammates of Jake West. The tests will help identify any possible structural abnormalities that could lead to premature cardiac arrest, a condition West suffered from.

"Because of him, people are getting tested and even at other schools Jake would be smiling down on us proud how he is saving lives," said Mike Ash, football captain.

"I wanted to get tested before I started track," said Marcus Walker, student athlete.

Last month, West collapsed while running laps on the track in full equipment during football practice. LaPorte High School did not require special testing for athletes that could have uncovered abnormalities, so health officials are hoping this free screening will calm fears and a sense of hopelessness.

"What we can pick out are congential abnormalities that maybe the patient is unaware of. Some of those could be life-threatening, if not caught early enough, and treatable," said Doug Hynek, cardiology team leader.

October is National Sudden Cardiac Awareness Month, and Tuesday night's event is already paying off.

"We have identified some abnormalities in some of these young student athletes, and both of those folks are onto a follow-up plan at this point in time, so yeah, very effective," said Brian Donnelly, IU Health LaPorte Hospital.

The screenings are being offered on a limited basis. They are scheduled between 4 and 8 p.m. on Thursday, October 24; and from 8 a.m. to noon on Nov. 2. Advance registration is required by calling (219) 326-2309. Students must have signed parental consent and not be under the care of a physician for any cardiac-related conditions, according to hospital officials.

In addition, cardiologists and specialists will present a heart and vascular education session at 6 p.m. Monday at the LaPorte High School Auditorium for freshman and sophomore parents and at 7 p.m. for junior and senior parents.

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