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January 05, 2012 06:06 PM

A Life-Saving Screening

parkston, sd


Each year in the United States, around 2,000 young adults die from sudden cardiac arrest. But they can be prevented with regular heart screenings.


That preventative medicine is credited with saving the lives of at least two South Dakotans.

Matt Lepke has been making great strides since we first brought you his story less than a year ago. The eighth grader had open heart surgery after a heart screening found a hole in Lepke's heart and an enlarged right side.

"He just got the okay three weeks ago. He can do all sports again, all contact sports, football, everything," Parkston Girl's Basketball Head Coach Rob Van Laecken said.

Van Laecken is Lepke's great uncle. After hearing that a heart screening possibly saved Lepke's life, Van Laecken looked into the possibility of having a heart screening clinic at his school.

"You can't make them be screened. It does cost, but at least give them that opportunity," Van Laecken said.

More than 100 students did get checked during a heart screening in Parkston held by the school, Screening America, and Avera St. Benedict Health Center.

"We think they're extremely important. In fact, we offered this to surrounding schools, to bring their athletes in too, if they would like to. And we'll do that in the future again," Gale Walker, the CEO and President of Avera St. Benedict Health Center, said.

And Van Laecken agrees that future screenings should be held because of what they found. Doctors diagnosed eighth grader Sam Herrold with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a leading cause of sudden cardiac death in young athletes.

"Sam is proof why, a great reason why we did it because of where she's at today. If we wouldn't have had the screening, we wouldn't have known about it," Van Laecken said.

While Van Laecken knows of two cases within the past year, he says he realizes that's unusual. But he still encourages others to get checked.

The screening costs around $90.

For a list of upcoming heart screenings, visit the Screening America website.

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