Following the 2014 and 2002 deaths of Kyle Stone and Jordan Street respectively, Rita Colee alongside Starla Street founded the Greater Decatur Community Cardiac Initiative to raise support for heart screening for student athletes and raise awareness for cardiac issues in memory of their sons. Both young men died at early ages due to cardiac issues, both of which went undetected.
On May 1, the organization hosted a panel to discuss the importance of health screenings for student athletes. Alongside the organization’s founders, the panel consisted of St. Mary’s Hospital and Mt. Zion High School athletic trainer Dustin Fink, Decatur Memorial Hospital athletic trainer and outreach coordinator Matt Munjoy, Dr. Ramzi Souki pediatric cardiologist and an assistant professor at Southern Illinois University, Zac Sowa a physician assistant at Decatur Memorial Hospital, and Dr. Madhu Jyothinagaram a cardiologist with Decatur Memorial Hospital Heart and Lung Institute as well as the Illinois Hearts Specialist and a clinical assistant professor at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.
“Sudden cardiac arrest is a condition in which the heartbeat stops abruptly and unexpectedly,” Dr. Jyothinagaram said to the audience. “This usually is caused by an abnormality in the heart’s electrical system. When this happens, blood stops flowing to the brain, the heart, and the rest of the body, and the person collapses. Sudden cardiac arrest results in death if it is not treated immediately with CPR and defibrillation.”
“Each year the IHSA requires a physical for each student athlete prior to participation in a sport,” Munjoy said regarding the process for student athletes. “As a benefit to our schools, the parents and athletes, we offer a school physical clinic at each school. Those dates are coordinated thru the athletic directors at each school and are provided at a low cost for each student.”
“In addition to the IHSA form, we will be encouraging each student and parent to review a list of simple heart focused questions. As the Midlevel medical provider reviews the questions with the student and parent, there will be an opportunity to exchange information about the answers. If the medical provider suggests the student would benefit from obtaining an EKG, they will be eligible to obtain it that same day, onsite, at no additional cost. As an athletic trainer onsite at each school, we know the students, and have a pretty good idea of how they perform, and if they have communicated any complaints of unusual exertion or pain in their chest. Our goal is to open better communication if the students understand what symptoms are serious and should be reported.
“Dr. Souki or one of his partners from SIU Pediatric Cardiology will be interpreting the EKGs. The results will be reported to me, and I will be speaking with the parents regarding the report and if there is a need to be referred on for additional testing or treatment.”
“First, if further evaluation is needed we are going to make every effort to have students seen as quickly as possible,” Sowa said when asked if student athletes would be ineligible to play. “Keep in mind we hold the physicals in the Spring for participating in Fall sports. If abnormal heart rhythms are detected, some can be treated with medications. There are other treatment options such as catheter ablation and in rare cases through an implantable cardioverter defibrillator therapy.”
“The most important for all of this is to obtain the information necessary to establish a plan. If your son or daughter has a condition like one that we have mentioned, we want to have a plan in place that allows them to continue playing any sport knowing we have skilled medical providers with our athletic trainers present at their games and practices. They will be prepared and have a plan in place that is individualized based on specific needs. This will also provide a baseline fingerprint for what is normal for your student.”