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Free heart screenings aim to raise awareness for sudden cardiac arrest in young people

Peyton Walker was a sophomore at King’s College when she suffered from sudden cardiac arrest in November of 2013.

“She was in her second year of the Physician Assistant program,” Peyton’s mom, Julie Walker, said. “And without warning, she collapsed and died in her apartment.”

The Peyton Walker Foundation was created to increase survival rates and increase awareness of Sudden Cardiac Arrest.

“It’s definitely a health crisis that is very under-reported, there’s not a lot of good data on it, it’s really hard to track. But we know it’s a health epidemic and we’ve got to do something about this,” Walker said.

On February 18th, they will host a free heart screening from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Richard Abass Alley Center for Health Sciences on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre. The testing is free, but parents are asked to make an appointment by February 13th at peytonwalker.org.

Twelve to 19 year olds who are not currently under the care of a cardiologist can receive a free electrocardiogram and vitals check. Echocardiograms will be provided to patients who indicate a need for additional testing.

Currently, students do not receive a routine heart screening, or EKG, as part of their physicals.

“Sports physicals and well child physicals are failing our kids, “ Walker said. “When you just listen to a kid’s heart with a stethoscope, you miss 80 to 90 percent of electrical problems that can cause cardiac arrest. So that’s why it’s so important to get a baseline electrocardiogram that helps find these heart issues and these hidden electrical problems in kids’ hearts that can lead to cardiac arrest.”

Pennsylvania passed Peyton’s Law in 2020, which requires coaches to receive sudden cardiac arrest training annually, and the PIAA to provide information about the importance of EKG testing and an option to request one at the patient’s own expense.

“That helps educate any parents of student athletes in Pennsylvania about electrocardiograms, how and why they’re so important, and it encourages parents to go and get their kids checked at their primary care doctor’s with a baseline electrocardiogram,” Walker said.

According to the American Heart Association, cardiac arrest can be reversed if they are treated immediately, by performing CPR and shocking them with an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED). A study published by the Journal of Clinical Medicine says AED and CPR training are pertinent to preventing death from cardiac arrest.

The Peyton Walker Foundation provides CPR and AED training, and has donated more than 500 AEDs to organizations in PA.