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Caring for hearts: Students receive free ECGs

By Richard Greene | Published Wednesday, April 17, 2019
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Health check

HEALTH CHECK – Whitney Lamance hooks Dalton Westray up for an electrocardiogram Tuesday in the Boyd High School gym. Students were administered the ECGs throughout the morning. Messenger photo by Richard Greene

Boyd Intermediate School teacher Lauren Luig spent Tuesday morning signing in students before volunteers administered electrocardiograms.

Luig had a personal reason for being in the gym as the students filed in for the quick test – the memory of her brother, Taylor Whitley. The former Texas A&M standout and NFL offensive lineman died in August in Lake Jackson.

“This year I lost my brother to a heart attack. He was only 38,” Luig said. “My brother was an athlete, a pro football player and active his whole life.

“This is a great opportunity for our kids.”

Three hundred fourteen middle and high school students, Boyd ISD staff and community members were signed up to receive the ECGs Tuesday. Boyd Intermediate/Middle School nurse Whitney Lamance led the effort through the Cody Stephens Go Big or Go Home Foundation for every Boyd athlete, cheerleader and band member between sixth and 12th grades to have the opportunity to receive free ECGs. Boyd ISD staff members and other students could also get the cardiovascular screening performed for $20.

“They were available to anyone for $20. We had some sponsorship from some parents for students that were not eligible for the free screenings,” Lamance said. “We haven’t had to turn any kids away.”

Helping hands

HELPING HANDS – Several volunteers turned out to help with the electrocardiograms provided for Boyd students through the Cody Stephens Go Big or Go Home Foundation. Messenger photo by Richard Greene

Nathan Schwarz, the heart screening director, for the Cody Stephens Go Big or Go Home Foundation was on site Tuesday to help administer the exams that detect heart problems by measuring the electrical activity generated by the heart as it contracts.

Schwarz said the ECGs will detect structural and electrical abnormalities, along with various heart-related diseases.

“The number of abnormalities we find range between 2 and 3 percent,” he said.

The foundation was founded by Scott Stephens after his son Cody died May 6, 2012. A few weeks shy of graduating, the 6-9 nearly 300-pound college-bound lineman laid down to take a nap on a Sunday afternoon and never woke up. Cody Stephens died from sudden cardiac arrest.

Starting with the proceeds from the sale of Cody’s grand champion pig, Stephens began the foundation in his son’s name with a goal of providing ECGs for athletes and other students involved in extracurricular events throughout the state.

Since 2012, the foundation has raised more than $1.5 million and provided ECGs to thousands of students at 240 schools for little or no cost.

“We’re screening about 30 percent of the school districts in the state,” Schwarz said.

Among the volunteers helping administer the exams was Boyd junior Dalton Westray, a member of Boyd High School’s health practicum class. Westray, who has joined the National Guard, hopes to become a combat medic and then pursue a career as an emergency physician.

“This is a great opportunity for me to learn and see what the different ECGs look like and the different abnormalities,” said Westray, while helping a middle school student with wires hooked up to him through the exam.

“It’s simple and fast. He was here maybe three minutes.”

In the fall when her children and their classmates take the football field, Lamance will watch with a little peace of mind after so many had the ECGs performed.

“I wish more kids could take advantage of the opportunity,” Lamance said. “I’m happy for the ones that did that they can go out on the field and don’t have to worry as much. It’s not 100 percent, but we’ve taken a step in the right direction.

“If we save one kid, it’s a win-win.”

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