A Shoreham-Wading River senior showed a lot of heart this past weekend by making sure her fellow students and community members got theirs checked out.
Jordan McClintock, a 17-year-old Girl Scout, saw the culmination of a two-year Gold Award project Saturday, Oct. 14, as Albert G. Prodell Middle School’s gymnasium became a mini medical center fully staffed with cardiologists, physicians and nurse practitioners from hospitals across the state, bringing with them life-saving equipment. The medical professionals provided more than 400 registrants — between the ages 12 and 25 — with free, all-day heart screenings in an effort to raise awareness about sudden cardiac arrest, the leading cause of death in young athletes.
With help from a $400,000 grant by Copiague-based Heart Screen New York, McClintock’s event allowed students from Shoreham-Wading River and beyond to get thorough cardiovascular screenings, which included an electrocardiogram test, a blood pressure reading and final consultation with medical professionals. Pediatric cardiologists were available in case further testing was needed and students were given hands-only CPR and automatic external defibrillator training after their exams.
As heart screenings are not generally covered by health insurance, the event also made it possible for parents to evaluate a crucial component of their children’s health without spending up to $1,000 per exam.
“This is amazing,” said Maureen MacDowell, whose son, a cross country runner at the school, was screened Saturday. “It’s a huge deal that the girl who organized this did so. It’s definitely worth having.”
Marlene Baumeister, the mother of a football player, said other school districts should use the event as a model for their own heart screenings.
Tony Zajac, a Shoreham-Wading River parent and coach, called the program excellent.
“It’s very educational for these kids and more in-depth than I thought,” Zajac said. “It gives them feedback on their own heart health while teaching them how to potentially save somebody else’s life.”
Sudden cardiac arrests claim the lives of more than 2,000 people under 25 in the country every year, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, and yet they are not included in most routine physical exams or pre-participation sports physicals. One out of 100 students that attend a heart screening will discover an underlying heart condition.
“If I can save one life with early detection, my work for the past two years will have been all worth it.”
“If I can save one life with early detection, my work for the past two years will have been all worth it,” said McClintock, an aspiring pediatrician. “I’m really hoping it initiates some conversations among my peers and their families.”
The Girl Scout developed her project as a freshman after she got her own heart screening done at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn, which was offered in partnership with Heart Screen New York, based on her family’s history of cardiac problems.
It was through the procedure, which she referred to as “painless” and “relieving,” that McClintock began her years-long correspondence with Karen Acompora, the co-founder of Heart Screen New York.
Acompora lost her 14-year-old son to a sudden cardiac arrest during a high school lacrosse game in 2000 after a ball struck his chest between heartbeats. She and Melinda Murray, a Queens-based mother whose son collapsed on a basketball court and died from an undetected heart condition, formed Heart Screen New York together as a way to detect heart trouble in local youths and prevent as many deaths as possible.
Heart Screen New York hosts only two screenings per year due to the expenses and resources needed for each one.
“I thought it was an amazing program and would be great if I could bring it to Shoreham,” McClintock said. “Out here we’ve never really had anything like this that’s free and promotes cardiovascular health in student-athletes and the community in general. I was very inspired by Karen’s story.”
McClintock’s perseverance paid off, literally, early last year when Heart Screen New York representatives informed her Shoreham-Wading River would be the site of their October 2017 screening.
“I think the screening is certainly opening a lot of eyes in the Shoreham community and Jordan’s done such a nice job of advertising and promoting the event,” Acompora said. A founder of another group called the Louis J. Acompora Memorial Foundation, in memory of her son, the Northport mother hopes heart screenings will eventually become a mandatory part of physicals. In fact, she and Murray have been pushing legislation for years to make electrocardiograms part of student-athlete’s preparticipation screening process.
“There’s a lack of knowledge on the part of individuals who feel it’s too costly to do heart screenings, but how do you put a price tag on life?” said Murray, whose 17-year-old son Dominic died in 2009, exactly three years after his father died from a massive heart attack. “We’re really proud of Jordan. It’s having a great impact at the school and is really spreading the awareness of the importance of heart screenings.”
Among the volunteers at the event was Shoreham senior and baseball player Jack Crowley, who, two years ago, at 15 years old, was declared medically dead after a line drive hit him in the chest. Crowley’s heart stopped and he was unable to breathe. He was brought back to life from the shock of an automatic external defibrillator — which Heart Screen New York had pushed to make available in as many locations as possible.
“They’re the reason I’m here,” Crowley said. “Get a heart screening. It’s so much better than learning the hard way that you have an issue.”
Senior volleyball player Lindsay Deegan said of the screening: “This is something I never would’ve thought of doing this before, so it’s cool to know what’s going on.”
McClintock is expected to receive her Gold Award during a ceremony in Spring 2018.
“Girl Scouts pledge to help people at all times, and Jordan’s stellar work truly exemplifies that promise,” said Yvonne Grant, President and CEO for Girl Scouts of Suffolk County. “Jordan’s Gold Award project is an inspiring and extraordinary way to bring awareness.”