The Laredo Independent School District’s Health Services Department is providing free Electrocardiogram (EKG) screening for students at Martin, Cigarroa, and Nixon High Schools. The preventative EKG screenings are for LISD secondary students who have never been screened before and who participate in athletics, band, cheer, dance, and JROTC. Over 600 high school students are expected to get their free EKG screening over the next few weeks. 

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is a condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. If this happens, blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs. SCA is the leading cause of death in student athletes, and leading cause of death on school campuses. It contributes to the second medical cause of death for people under 25 years of age. 

During the 2018-2019 school year, LISD Health Services Department initiated a pilot program with the Cody Stephens Foundation for EGK screenings of high school students. Cody Stephens died from Sudden Cardiac Arrest as a high school senior. His parents started the foundation to provide awareness in hopes of saving lives by detecting cardiac issues early. 

Three years ago, when the district first did these screenings, the foundation came down with their own machines and a total of 1,354 LISD students were screened. Twelve students were identified with some kind of cardiac abnormalities. Of those students, 11 had something wrong, but they could continue to participate in their sports if they had a follow up with a doctor and one student was flagged high risk and needed to stop participating immediately. 

“We are providing these EKG screenings in an effort to try to prevent any students who might have any cardiac issues that they might not know about,” said Lopez. “So, we are trying to identify these students and get them the help that they need as soon as possible.” 

To get their EKG screening student must follow several steps. First, they must have a signed consent form from their parents. Next, the students get their screenings during the school day. At the end of the day the results of the readings are sent out electronically to the Cody Stevens Foundation and the results will be back within 24 to 48 hours.

“We do ask the parents to please sign the consent forms,” said Lopez. “It's free of charge to them. The district is paying for it and it's something that could save their child’s life.”

After the readings are complete students will receive a green, yellow, or red referral. Green means no referral is needed and the student can participate in their extra-curricular activities. A yellow means student may continue to participate in activity but only until follow up appointment with doctor, while a red means immediately stops participating in activities and the student is referred to a cardiologist for evaluation.  

“Anyone that comes out normal with all the greens, we let them know that they were fine. Anyone with a yellow which means that they had something abnormal, they can continue to participate in sports. We will call the parents. They do need to sign the document and we will give them their result just so they can go back with their doctor,” said Lopez. “Then with our red flags, we need to call the parents in. We usually have a more detailed meeting with them. We do need to explain the steps what's coming next and if they have a cardiologist. If they don't have a cardiologist, do they have a primary doctor? And if they don’t, we work with the foundation to get them help.”

To continue the EKG screening program, the LISD Board of Trustees approved the purchase of nine EKG Machines and funding for the review of the results. 

“We now have our own EKG machines, thanks to our Board of Trustees. So now we can do the screenings on our own,” said Lopez. “They are very proactive with trying to help out students and prevent anything from happening to them.”

 “The only thing we don’t do since we're not cardiologists or doctors is the readings. We need to send the readings back so they can give us back the results,” said Lopez. “They do charge the district $10 per screening but, again our board and our Superintendent are always very proactive and supportive of us. They approved to pay for it, so this is at no cost to the students.” 

            After Spring Break the Health Services Department plans to continue the EKG screenings with the middle schools. 

“Since the machines belong to us, we can take our time a little more. We'll be here at all the schools for the full day,” said Lopez. “We will be able to come back in case we missed somebody who was absent or if they were out for some reason.”

The screenings were conducted by the LISD Health Services Department with assistance from  Laredo College Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) and nursing students, and TAMIU nursing students.