Screenshot 2023-04-14 110759

9 ‘Play for Jake’ heart screenings result in follow-up care

NEW CARLISLE — Nine students who received free heart screenings at New Prairie schools last month were referred to their family physicians for follow-up care because of apparent abnormalities that were found.

The screenings were spearheaded by Julie Schroeder, whose son, Jake West, collapsed and died during football practice at LaPorte High School in 2013 from right ventricular cardiomyopathy, an often undetected genetic condition that can result in death.

The screenings test for about seven different cardiomyopathies, but can also turn up other potentially serious conditions of the heart.

More than 1,000 middle school and high school students underwent the voluntary testing at New Prairie Middle School last month.

Seven of the abnormalities were found in high school students, said Schroeder, founder of the Play for Jake Foundation, which raises money to pay for the cost of the screenings performed by the Chicago area-based Young Hearts for Life organization.

Last year, the first screenings of about 1,500 middle school and high school students in LaPorte turned up abnormalities in the test results of seven students.

Six of those students were in middle school.

Schroeder said some of the families whose teens have had positive screenings have reached out to her for guidance and other forms of support.

Some of the students have even undergone open heart surgery and are in recovery, said Dan Bigg, a volunteer development partner with the Play for Jake Foundation.

“We hope we don’t uncover any positive conditions (when screening at a school),” Bigg said, “but the statistics show that we will and that is the driving force.”

Although the percentage of students who test positive for abnormalities is small, Schroeder believes all kids should be tested.

“There’s nine families right there that could be affected if they did not get a heart screen,” Schroeder said. “So, this is why we need to be doing this with all children.”

The screenings through Play for Jake are paid for by money raised from events like golf tournaments and corporate donations.

The next event is the Play for Jake walk/run scheduled Oct. 15 at Legacy Hills Golf Club in LaPorte.


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