Opinion – Heart Conditions and Heartache


through the looking glassBy Marianne Curtis

Earlier this month I witnessed something that no parent should have to. I watched an old friend bury her fifteen-year-old son way who passed away suddenly, way before his time. Cause of death? “Undetected heart condition”.

This month seems to have been the month for heart related causes of death. We lost long time comedian John Ritter at the age of 53, and musician Robert Palmer at age 57. Both were “young” but not as young as my friend’s son, Shane. So my question is how do we detect “undetected heart conditions”?

Is this something that is preventable? Is there a responsibility that needs to be taken by parents, teachers, school divisions, or doctors to raise awareness of this?

Each child that enters school must supply a doctor’s note that states that all their immunizations are up to date. And that remains the only letter that we as parents need to supply the school divisions regarding our children’s health.

Sure, most parents are aware of the obvious. If their child has asthma or allergies, these are things that are easily detected. Then there are conditions that require rigorous testing. But how do we know if our children are at risk?

I find it ironic that as adults we are warned left, right and center “Before beginning any exercise program or diet – CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN” even before we shovel our driveways. And yet, our children participate in daily physical education without the same warnings. I think it is assumed that because they are young, they are not susceptible to the same conditions that apply to older adults.

But sadly the growing trend seems to be a cause of death classified as “undetected heart condition” and there does not seem to be an age barrier.

So my question is this. What needs to be done? I mean, a child drowns while on a school outing, and inquest is held and changes to school policies are implemented as a result. Shane’s passing was no less tragic.

Should there not then be an investigation into how we can prevent this from happening to future children? I am not suggesting that schools make kids less active and letting them out of physical education.

What I am suggesting is that parents and schools look at integrating a policy that requires that certain tests be done. And the province back those policies by providing the funding to health authorities to pay for those additional tests.

Obviously matters of the heart know no age boundaries and I think that the public needs to take more active responsibility and prevent more heartbreak in our communities. It is sad when it takes an unexpected death of a child before some people ask or start answering questions that should be matter of common practice.

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