On December 27, 2016, 16-year-old Michael Saxby, a student at Waunakee High School, went into cardiac arrest on the basketball court at an away game in West Allis, WI. Friends, teammates, and his mother watched from the sidelines as the athletic trainer performed CPR and an AED was brought to the scene. Luckily, EMS arrived in time to use their defibrillator and resuscitate him. A three-sport athlete most of his life, Michael had only had minor signs there may be a problem – shortness of breath on occasion, and some fatigue beyond what should have been the norm. Happily, Michael’s story ends well – he recovered and is now back in school, although not back on the basketball court. For many high-school and college athletes, the outcome is not as positive. Many who go into cardiac arrest on the field, court, or diamond do not recover. Luckily there is a simple way to find out if a student is at risk for a cardiac incident – an ECG.
When we here at AED Superstore heard Michael’s story and realized it had happened “in our backyard,” we decided to embark on a new offering. We were already carrying a device called the Cardea Screen by Cardiac Insight, which allows someone who has been trained in its use to conduct a 12-lead ECG on patients aged 14-45. It is calibrated using the Seattle Criteria which compensates for a condition known as “athlete’s heart” so the false-positive readings are kept to a minimum – in fact it has less than a 3% false-positive rate (standard ECGs do not compensate for athlete’s heart and have a false-positive rate of around 20-22% when screening athletes). This device conducts one of the cleanest ECG readings on the market today. AED Superstore reached out and offered to screen any Waunakee High School student athlete who wished to be tested at no charge.
The response was overwhelming. Armed with two Cardea Screen devices, and the materials to perform routine vitals (height, weight, and blood pressure) as well as hands-only CPR/AED training, six AED Superstore employees set out to screen the over 200 students who had signed up for the screening on March 3 at Waunakee High School. Of those that signed up, 105 received an ECG that day and a second day has been agreed upon for the testing of those who were not able to make it on the 3rd. The readings will be analyzed by cardiologist Dr. Vic Froehlicher, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and Orthopedics/Sports Medicine and Director of the Sports Cardiology Clinic at Stanford University. Results from the testing will be confidentially emailed to the students’ parents.
Athletic Director for Waunakee High School, Aaron May, was key to the success of this event. His passion for his student-athletes was clear in his efforts to bring the kids to school on what was a scheduled day off to undergo the testing. Michael’s story had been covered by the local newspaper and television station and was well-known throughout the school of just over 1200 students. When parents realized they could possibly prevent experiencing the same situation with their own child, they were willing and eager to participate.
“The best part about the whole day was the kids,” said Amber Neller, Strategic Account Manager for AED Superstore, and the person who reached out to Waunakee High School after reading about Michael. “They were all well-behaved, polite, and appreciative. Even though some of them had to wait a while, they all handled it very well.”