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Local

Fund to help give students heart screenings

Ryan Wetters, Geneva High School class of 2004, died May 25, 2009 of an undiagnosed heart ailment.
Ryan Wetters, Geneva High School class of 2004, died May 25, 2009 of an undiagnosed heart ailment.

GENEVA – Ryan Wetters went to sleep one night and did not wake up, dying suddenly of an undiagnosed heart arrhythmia.

Wetters, a 2004 Geneva High School graduate, was 22 years old when he died May 25, 2009.

His parents, Kathy and Brian Wetters, provided a large part of the funding for a free heart screening for all Geneva High School students scheduled next week. Kathy Wetters said the testing is a tribute to her son through the donations made to his memorial fund.

“We just want to save another family from going through this,” Kathy Wetters said. “We wanted to do something. If it saves one person, it’s worth it.”

The Young Hearts for Life Cardiac Screening Program will be held during physical education and health classes Thursday. The screening is voluntary, free and open to all students.

Students must register by midnight Wednesday, online at www.midwestheart.org/young-hearts-for-life/registration-and-results. A video, description of the screening process and registration form are also on the high school website, www.geneva304.org/GHS.

About 600 of the school’s 1,900 students have signed up, officials said.

Dr. Joseph Marek, a cardiologist with Midwest Heart Specialists Advocate Medical Group in Downers Grove, said he started the Young Hearts screening program through the Midwest Heart Foundation in 2006.

They have done more than 75,000 electrocardiograms or EKGs at 50 high schools. The EKG checks for problems with the electrical activity of the heart. In 2 percent of the screenings, more serious underlying conditions were uncovered.

“What happened to the Wetters was unbelievably tragic,” Marek said. “They wanted to see if they could make a difference for someone else’s child.”

Marek said high school physicals miss 96 percent of underlying heart conditions that can cause sudden death. In Europe, high school students have had EKG testing for more than 25 years, reducing sudden cardiac deaths by 85 percent, he said.

To make it affordable, Young Hearts relies on community volunteers who take a 90-minute training session. The cost to do a high school screening is about $10,000, he said. He recommended the screenings be done every two years.

If the EKG screening turns up something suspicious, they can do a screening echocardiogram and recommend students see their local doctor.

“We have just done this with community efforts, training volunteers works well [to] find these kids out there who are harboring conditions and preventing tragic outcomes,” Marek said. “I feel comfortable going to bed at night [because] I know we’ve identified hundreds that have had conditions that are life-threatening.”

Heart screening

Who: All Geneva High School students.
What: Young Hearts for Life Cardiac Screening.
When: April 5 during health and physical education classes.
Where: Geneva High School.
How: Register by midnight April 4 at www.midwestheart.org/young-hearts-for-life/registration-and-results or www.geneva304.org/GHS/.
Why: To find undiagnosed heart problems.
Cost: Free.
More information:
• Midwest Heart Foundation – www.midwestheart.org.
• Ryan Wetters – http://ryan-wetters.memory-of.com/About.aspx.

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