PeaceHealth free heart screenings can help save a life

The free screenings are designed for active teens aged 12 to 18.

Posted: Feb 13, 2018 3:51 PM
Updated: Feb 14, 2018 12:24 PM

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- PeaceHealth Medical Center will offer free heart screenings for teens, that could potentially find hidden heart defects. 

Heart problems in many teens can go undetected, especially if they are active and healthy. The screenings are meant to provide more information to teens and families about heart health, as well as identify factors that could put them at risk in the future.

Last year, 88 teens participated in the free screenings. Joey Peterson was one of them. He was an avid runner and a healthy high school student. He didn't show any symptoms that would lead to concerns about his heart health. 

"I never even thought he had a problem," said Kristi Riscili, Peterson's mother. 

During his screening, doctors noticed some irregularities and after following up with other doctors, he was later diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. 

When a heart beats normally, an electrical signal starts at the top of the heart and gets sent across the heart. If the electrical signal doesn't start in the right place or doesn't follow the right path, it can cause problems, which is what was happening to Peterson. 

Some of the symptoms of Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome can be dizziness, fainting, chest pain, trouble breathing, and in serious cases, sudden death. Since Peterson had a mild form, he didn't have any symptoms and, therefore, didn't realize he had a heart problem.

Since Peterson was able to find this heart defect through a screening, doctors were able to help correct it through a minimally invasive procedure. 

"Joey didn't have any problems after it was detected and fortunately he didn't after it was taken care of," Dr. Eric Johnson, a pediatric cardiologist treating Peterson, said. "It could have caused more problems in the future that we were able to prevent by identifying this and getting it taken care of."

In October 2017, 19 out of 73 teens who were screened at PeaceHealth were told to follow up on potential problems. Even if a teen does not have a heart problem, doctors can still provide information about factors like weight and blood pressure, that can impact heart health. 

The screenings are meant for active teens between 12 to 18 years-old. The free screenings will be held Feb. 24 at the Oregon Heart and Vascular Institute at Peace Health Sacred Heart Medical Center at Riverbend. The event will take place from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. Slots fill up quick. If you would like to participate you can sign up on their website

"I've been texting all my friends when I found out another screening was coming up and telling them 'bring your kids in'," Riscili said. "Joey is living proof that there could be something going on that you don't even know about. And Probably nothing is wrong, but it is really good to know."

Teens will also get a quick lesson on chest-compression-only CPR.

In Albany, teens can also get their heart screened on Feb. 24 at South Albany High School Commons. The screening targets people 11 to 25-years-old and it costs $20.

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