Friday, March 18, 2011

My Son is a Teenage Athlete

Martin at one of his lacrosse games. That's my boy!
I’m not an alarmist and I don’t over-dramatize situations, but learning about the sudden cardiac deaths of four teenage athletes has had me a little on edge. My son Martin is a teenage athlete and his brother William has a congenital heart defect (CHD).

Ever since William’s diagnosis of scimitar syndrome on March 10, 2005, the question of whether Martin’s heart is as healthy as it has always seemed has been stuck in the back of my mind. I’ve left it there the past six years because I’m neither alarmist nor paranoid.

Well. Until I followed and read the recent stories about Wes Leonard, 16; Matthew Hammerdorfer, 17; Javaris Brinkley, 16; and hearing a personal story about 17-year-old Sarah Landauer of Gainesville.

I know the debates about young athletes and heart screenings. I know there are no guarantees with anything. Any one of us could be hit by a bus on our way home tonight.

I’ve read the checklist of signs, symptoms and histories for student athletes. That we can check no to most of them does little to assuage my anxiety. But a full-on physical check-up will ease my fears about the risk of sudden cardiac death.  

Martin plays an aggressive, high-intensity sport and he has a brother with a CHD. Martin practices lacrosse with his junior-varsity team 15 hours a week, and he plays one to two games per week, and as the starting right attack, he plays 98 percent of the time in each game. I worry. And it's not unfounded worry.

So, on March 10, 2011, six years to the day of William’s CHD diagnosis, our pediatric nurse gave us the dates for Martin’s EKG and echocardiogram. Martin will have his annual physical plus an EKG on today, March 18, William’s due date. Martin’s echocardiogram is scheduled for March 22, William’s birthday. (I’m really not superstitious, but I hate it when dates and numbers fall freakishly together like that.)

I don’t expect anything but to find out everything is normal with Martin and he gets the whole-hearted all-clear to play sports as much and as intensely as he wants.

But right now, he’s teenage athlete who plays vigorous sports. He has a brother with a congenital heart defect. And within a two-week period recently, four teenage athletes have collapsed playing sports. It’s time for Martin to get that EKG and echocardiogram.