Auburn Students Look Out For Heart Health

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Auburn junior Jaime Vera undergoes a heart screening Saturday as volunteer nurse Tina Kapulka administers the test. Photo Credit: Rick Sobey
Auburn students learned how to perform CPR at the heart screening event. Photo Credit: Rick Sobey

AUBURN, Mass. – More than 100 Auburn students are safer today than they were yesterday.

On Saturday, Sept. 29, around 110 students underwent free electrocardiogram heart screenings (EKG) at Auburn High School’s gymnasium, a preventive screening to detect any heart issues in students.

“If you can find one person, it’s great. If you find nobody, that’s better,” said Donna Anderson, an Auburn parent who organized the screening. “I’d just hate to see anything happen in town.”

An EKG is a painless test that records the heart’s electrical activity. It shows how fast the heart is beating and whether the rhythm of the heartbeat is steady or irregular.

Doctors use EKGs to detect and study many heart problems, such as heart attacks, arrhythmia and heart failure. An EKG is performed by placing electrode stickers on the chest, arms and legs connected to the EKG machine.

“It’s positive feedback knowing that I’m going to go on the field, perfectly healthy and I don’t have to worry about collapsing or having any issues,” said Mike Vaitkunas, senior captain of the soccer team.

Anderson and Kristen Pappas, director of recreation and culture, along with Athletic Director William Garneau and the Auburn High School Booster Club, helped organize the screening.

The testing used the same screening model as the Nick of Time Foundation in Seattle. Sue Apodaca, its operations director, and Darla Varrenti, director, attended the Auburn screening.

“As you can tell from the excitement and buzz in the gym, this is something that the community is going to be very supportive of, and I’m hoping it spreads to other communities in your state,” Varrenti said.

There were also volunteers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School at the screening, going over the students’ EKG tests along the students’ medical histories.

“At a regular checkup, the heart will sound OK, but the way to catch issues is by doing an EKG, which is not part of the standard physical exam,” said Darshak Sanghavi, pediatric cardiologist at UMass Medical School. “One in 300 hundred kids will have an undetected major heart problem, which is why this event is so important.”

If there was a concern with an EKG on Sept. 29, the student would be referred to his or her doctor for a follow-up.

In addition to the heart screening, police and firefighters taught students CPR and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED).

“In case they get into a situation, they can pull the AED down and help. They’re all over the high school, and we want them to know where they are and how to use them,” Anderson said. “We also have the Auburn VNA here, RNs, PAs, NPs and parents, about 45 volunteers in all. We can’t thank them enough.”

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