Heart screening saves Waldwick teen from serious health risks



Then he participated in the Sean Fisher Memorial Foundation’s annual heart screenings at the high school.

The screening detected that Matthew had arrhythmia, or an irregular heartbeat.

“He was having frequent extra heartbeats,” said Jessica. “What we were told is the amount and frequency he was having is what was making it so abnormal. It needed to be treated.”

The arrhythmia was being caused by “rogue” heart cells disrupting Matthew’s normal heartbeat. If left untreated, it could have led to serious health issues. And in years of doctor visits, the condition had never been detected.

“You go for your well visits and everything checks fine,” said Jessica. “When screenings are offered like this, you realize how many kids are out there that don’t know that they have this.”

The foundation and its screenings came about in the aftermath of the death of Sean Fisher, who suffered sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) during a football game on his 13th birthday, Aug. 25, 2008. Fisher had had an undetected heart condition and his parents, James and Sheila, created the foundation to raise awareness about the condition and to prevent the same thing from happening to other children.

“I think we were the first ones to initiate this,” said James Fisher, Sean’s father and co-founder of the foundation. “Certainly in Bergen County.”

The screenings, which this year began Monday, March 7, and are being held through Friday, March 11, take about 25 minutes. In addition to recording height, weight and blood pressure, students are given electrocardiograms, echocardiograms and are tested for oxygen saturation. Hundreds of students have been screened in the previous six years, helping diagnose conditions such as high blood pressure, bicuspid aortic valves and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. While most students choose to keep the results of the screenings private, the Rypkemas put a face on the risk of an undiagnosed heart condition.

“It’s nice that somebody’s finally coming forward,” James Fisher said of the Rypkemas. “There’s been other kids caught” with heart conditions or other ailments, “but to what degree, you don’t know. We’re elated that Matthew was detected — or that anyone else is. But we’re even happier that he’s brave enough to come forward and share his story.”

After receiving the results, the Rypkemas sought treatment to eliminate any long-term issues. At their doctor visits, the screenings were praised for detecting what had not been seen on any tests prior.

The treatment prescribed for Matthew was a cardiac ablation, a cauterization of the heart cells disrupting his regular heartbeat. He underwent the procedure in July.

“After the cardiac ablation, on our ride home from the hospital, he was saying, ‘Mom, I think there’s something wrong. We need to go back to the hospital,’ ” said Jessica. “I asked him what was wrong. He said, ‘I don’t feel my heartbeat anymore.’ ”

Matthew, 15, is now “100 percent” and has started the baseball season.

“We were truly humbled by the whole thing,” said Jessica. “You don’t realize what’s happening. There’s a lot of stories. We feel we need to pay it forward to bring to light and advocate for the heart screenings. There are parents who don’t realize what’s happening.”

“Thank God for the Fisher foundation screening him,” said Harold.

For more information, visit seanfishermemorialfoundation.org.


Source: http://www.northjersey.com/community-news/clubs-and-service-organizations/screenings-uncover-heart-irregularity-in-need-of-treatment-1.1525754