Snohomish students get healthy heart screenings

SNOHOMISH — Sixteen-year-old Mike Sanders found out about the Nick of Time Foundation when he had his heart checked in Redmond last year.

The Snohomish High School junior liked the event. He wanted his friends and classmates to get screened for any possible cardiac issues they may have.

“I think it’s very important for kids to have their hearts screened, so they can have a long and healthy life,” he said.

So last year, he started a campaign to have the event come to Snohomish, District and school staff were in favor, so Wednesday, the school gym was filled with students being screened and learning how to apply first aid.

Nick of Time Foundation is a Mill Creek-based nonprofit that has screened hundreds of students, teaching them about sudden cardiac arrest. It was founded in 2006 by Darla Varrenti after his son, Nicholas, died of sudden cardiac arrest after a weekend of playing football in 2004. He was 16.

According to the American Red Cross, more than 350,000 people of all ages will face sudden cardiac arrest this year in the country.

This was the first time the foundation held screenings at Snohomish High School. The event was open for all people between the ages of 14 and 24. There were about 100 volunteers, including members of the Snohomish Fire Department, conducting the tests.

Organizers were expecting about 500 teens and young adults. The process took about half an hour for each student to have blood pressure checked and get an electrocardiogram.

Varrenti, who now lives in Seattle and is the executive director of the Nick of Time Foundation, believes that the current checkups student-athletes go through do not detect some dangerous heart conditions.

“You can’t find them by listening to their hearts. You need to take a picture and that step is not done,” she said.

The foundation plans to do about 10 of these events every school year. The next one in Snohomish County is scheduled for May at Cascade High School in Everett.

Some of the students were ordered by relatives to have themselves checked. Others just wanted to make sure they were healthy.

Sophomore Kristian Barney had a procedure a year ago to cure his rapid heart rhythm. This was his first time being checked since the procedure.

“It’s pretty cool that they have this,” said Kristian, who is 15.

Sophomore Mickenzie Harris, 15, was nervous after having her blood pressure checked.

“I don’t want to have anything wrong with my heart that I don’t know about,” she said.

Junior Josh Sharpe, 17, found out he had an enlarged aorta after his checkup. The doctor told him it should not affect him in the short run, but it could when he is older, he said. He is nervous not knowing how it will affect him when he grows up. Still, he was glad he had himself checked.

“I think everyone should have a screening,” Josh said.

Alejandro Dominguez: 425-339-3422; adominguez@ heraldnet.com.

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