Guardian EMS plans on “Going Big” for Teen Athletes in Area High Schools

GuardianEMSAmbulanceAfter hearing the story of Scott Stephens, the loss of his son Cody Stephens by Sudden Cardiac Arrest on May 6, 2012, Guardian EMS has been inspired to “Go Big” for the teen athletes of Brown, Coleman and Comanche Counties by providing them with free electrocardiogram screenings (ECG or EKG).

According to Guardian Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Ross Bradley, Stephen’s explains that ECG screening could have detected the hidden heart condition that Cody had which suddenly took his life.

Cody was 6’9”, weighed 289 pounds, was just a few weeks from graduating from Crosby High School, and was looking forward to continuing his education at Tarleton State University on a football scholarship before his death.  He had been working hard to stay in good condition to be prepared for college football practices until one Sunday afternoon, he relaxed in his dad’s recliner to watch television and dozed off but never woke up.  According to his father, he died in his sleep from sudden cardiac arrest, something that his parents had never heard of or had any idea that someone that young, and seemingly healthy could be at risk for with no warning signs.

Cody’s parents have created the Cody Stephens Foundation to share their son’s story with others and to raise awareness of this silent killer.  They also want to help prevent other families from experiencing the loss and heartache they have gone through since Cody’s death.

The foundation is working on an ECG screening program to help implement and facilitate improved physicals to middle and high school student athletes, to include education and raise awareness of Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) among young seemingly healthy students.  The foundation is endorsing the availability of low cost ECGs as a part of sports pre-participation physicals for all athletes and available to all students if requested.

"Seems pretty easy to me, as a parent who lost my hero to sudden cardiac arrest.  I want our student athletes to have the opportunity to receive a physical enhanced by an ECG screening and I’m willing to 'Go Big or Go Home' to see that it happens!” states Scott Stephens on the foundation’s website.

Scott Stephens fought hard for the passage of Cody’s Law (HB 1319) that would require students participating in school sports to have such ECG screening along with their pre-evaluation physical students must do each year.  The Texas Legislature, along with the Texas University of Interscholastic League board, declined to adopt the measure because it was cost prohibited.

According to the American Heart Association, Sudden Cardiac Arrest is the leading non-accidental death of student athletes with an estimated 2,000 deaths per year in the United States.  These deaths result from an undiagnosed cardiovascular condition that places them at risk for SCD.  Early screening with ECGs can detect at-risk students and save lives.

Studies by the American Heart Association indicate that “1 in 500 athletes or more may harbor an occult cardiovascular condition that places them at risk for SCD.”

Bradley reported that the most common cause of SCD in young athletes is Intered Cardiomyopathies followed by Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM), which accounts for 1/3 of the cases.  A simple ECG screening can pick up 95% of the HCM cases.  “A Harvard University study showed that there is a 77% greater chance of finding these diseases with an ECG than just a history and physical exam,” Bradley explained.  “As the 911 service provider for Brown County, each of the units operated by Guardian EMS contains a portable electrocardiogram screen (ECG) and we can provide the equipment needed to perform the ECG screenings for Brown, Coleman, and Comanche Counties.”

He explained that the Cody Stephens Foundation will be instrumental in providing these screenings to area students and that Guardian is working to get support from area doctors and get area school districts on board with the project.

“With the help of the Cody Stephens Foundation and local doctors, we will be able to screen our local athletes at no cost to the parents, legal guardians, or school district,” said Bradley.  He explained that Guardian is working on a pilot program with Brown County schools to start these ECG screenings on high school athletes at the school districts and that most districts are on board.

Bradley stated that Guardian EMS will absorb the cost of to perform the ECG screenings, which includes the cost of running the ambulance and paying the employees who will administer the screenings.  Guardian EMS has secured the supplies (10 electrode pads per student) needed to provide the estimated 3,000 Brown County high school students with these screenings.  They are hopeful that donations can eventually be secured from medical suppliers of the electrode pads to offer the screenings to students statewide.

Bradley stated that he has a personal interest in this project, as being a paramedic, he has been able to help save many lives over the years he worked on ambulances and now in administration of the company, this gives him a chance to once again help save lives.

“This is my opportunity to help save a life.  We (Guardian EMS) want to present this to everybody because it’s foolish not to use it (ECG screening),” said Bradley.  “If we do 500,000 screenings and we are able to help save 1 life, it is worth it.  You can’t put a price on life.”

For more information on the Cody Stephens Foundation, click here.