Does your child need cardiac screening?
By Connie Jeske Crane
on February 19, 2013
Two summers ago, our son, then seven, was winding
down an active day with some friends at a local park.
I began to notice that Zach was becoming unusually
agitated. Since dinnertime was approaching, I insisted
we go home. Disappointed, Zach stormed off on his bike
and when I eventually caught up with him, I expected angry
complaints. Instead, I found Zach draped over his bike, telling
me softly, “Mom, I can’t make it home. I feel too weak.” Incredibly
frightened, I pushed him home. There we discovered
Zach’s heart was racing wildly. Once we got him resting on the
couch, he complained of chest pains and headache. Strangely
though, a few minutes later Zach said he felt fine and wanted
to go play again.
We took Zach to Toronto’s SickKids Hospital as a precaution.
Within an hour Zach got an ECG, saw a cardiologist, and we
got the implausible news that our healthy, athletic, Energizer-bunny
of a son had a heart condition. Our summer was then
booked with hospital appointments and tests, with a lengthy
surgery in the offing.
Our son received excellent medical care and today he’s
doing great. I’m sharing this story for one reason only – to underline
the importance of reporting cardiac-related symptoms
to a physician and the effectiveness of simple ECG testing. Recently,
there’s been lots of media
attention around sudden cardiac
death in young athletes. It’s difficult
for me to read stories like that
of Tyler Kerr, the Ottawa-area teen
who died after suffering cardiac arrest
at a hockey game. I’m always
wondering – What if? What can we
do to prevent more tragedies?
I contacted Dr. Greg Wells, PhD,
for his advice to parents who might
be worried by the news stories.
Dr. Wells is part of a research group at SickKids that recently
compiled recommendations for cardiac screening for athletes.
Wells says a Canadian policy on cardiac screening for young
athletes is “being developed as we speak.” (For a screening
questionnaire, go to drgregwells.com
In the meantime, he advises parents to watch out for two
key symptoms. “If a child has a fainting episode or if a child has
dizziness during exercise, that is not normal. Coaches, athletes
and parents need to get that checked.”
Wells also adds that there is a genetic component to all of
this. “If there is a family history of sudden cardiac death…that’s
definitely something to bring up with your family doctor.”
Connie Jeske Crane is a Toronto-based freelancer and mom who writes
frequently on parenting, green living, and health and wellness.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, February/March 2013.
By Connie Jeske Crane|
February 19, 2013