HOUSTON—Sudden cardiac arrest claims the lives of hundreds of children each year and yet standard sports physicals miss 96 percent of those at risk.
Just ten days before her 13th birthday, Taylor Waltman collapsed during soccer practice.
“I remember she gave me a look like ‘I don’t want to run this lap,’” Dave Waltman recalled.
Taylor died of sudden cardiac arrest.
“That night we all had to go up to the hospital. We were there all night,” her mother, Kim, said.
“Worst night of our lives,” her father added.
Their young daughter never showed signs of a heart problem.
Experts say not all kids at risk will have obvious symptoms.
Doctor Jane Crosson says there are, however, things to watch out for like family history.
“So we always say any sudden death under 35, have the immediate relatives screened for these genetic conditions that can cause sudden death,” Dr. Crosson said.
The doctor says even unexplained car accidents or drownings where a family member may have passed out before they passed away need to be looked at.
“In people that died swimming, 28 percent or 29 percent had a genetic abnormality that wasn’t previously recognized,” Dr. Crosson said.
Kids complaining of chest pain while exercising or playing, and fainting or passing out during an activity are other red flags.
While an EKG can detect about 60 percent of those at risk, Dr. Crosson says schools need defibrillators to help the other 40 percent of kids who go undetected.
After the Waltman’s had their family tested, they learned their younger daughter, Shelby, also had a heart problem.
“Of course we worry about her every day, but we just have faith in them that they can treat it,” Dave Waltman said.