Healthy Teen Hearts
Who do you visual when you think of a heart patient? A senior. Certainly not a high school senior! However, Hurley’s Teen Heart Screening clinics have detected potential heart conditions for 111 teenagers in Genesee County. Some of these detections required serious procedures such as defibrillators and other heart surgeries.
Scott Bonzheim, a physician assistant at Hurley Medical Center for 19 years, is a supervisor and administrator for Allied Health and Business Development.
Scott shared, “To complicate matters, unlike adult heart symptoms, such as chest pain, most do not recognize the mild teen symptoms. Often the first symptom of heart disease in teenagers is sudden cardiac death.”
In recent years, media has covered stories of young, healthy athletes across the country that have collapsed and died without any previous symptoms of heart disease. These reoccurring stories inspired Scott and another physician to start discussions to launch a teen heart screening in Genesee County. Scott shared, “The clearest path to stopping teen cardiac death is through early detection.“
To build momentum, initial consultations and brainstorming sessions were conducted with Beaumont hospital. Since the launch of Hurley Teen Heart Clinics in 2012, over 1800 Genesee County teenagers have received free heart exams. Scott explained, “The clinics are in multiple locations, typically school gyms setup as a mini clinic with fabric room dividers, examine tables, an EKG and eco machines are in each room.”
Each teen screening takes 30 minutes to 1 hour and it is completely free. Scott shared, “All kids should have this test done at least once for heart screening. It is free and does not take a lot of time. To have this type of testing done at a hospital would likely cost a couple of thousand dollars.”
These teen heart clinics have been made possible through generous donors such as the Mary Smith, a dedicated advocate for early teen heart dedication. Along with the fact everyone involved is volunteering, including onsite nurses, doctors and cardiologists. Recently UM Flint nursing program provided 20 nursing students to support the teen heart clinics; giving nursing students a chance to learn while helping with worthy cause.
Scott explained how they have kept the program efficient through volunteers and having a solid process in place to examine the seemingly healthy teens. Scott said, “Students come in fill out questionnaires, basic medical information like height weight are taken, while a resting EKG test is done. Then an onsite physician is reading their EKG. The program and testing follows criteria established by other hospitals and universities to give EKG reading if further evaluation is needed. Physicians talk to the teens, look at their health history and personal info and listen to heart and lungs. That initial evaluation determines immediately if the kids can play sports or if they need a echogram.”
Hurley has the next free Teen Heart Screening at the Flint Farmers Market this October. Scott said, “Last year’s event was a great success, bringing in over 300 teens.” Scott is determined to spread the news about cardiac death and help keep our teens healthy.
Symptoms for teens with heart conditions are different than adults. Scott Bonzheim explained, “This is because often the younger patient is not having a heart attack, they are suffering from abnormal hearth rhythm. They may not show signs of a heavy painful chest. A lot of times they do not have symptoms at all.”
Some symptoms for teen heart disease can be:
- Family heart disease history. If any family died at a young age suddenly.
- Dizziness or fainting
- Shortness of breathe
- Excessive Sweating