Hundreds of Philadelphia student-athletes get heart health screenings

"We just don't know when sudden cardiac arrest is going to happen to someone so, it's important that everyone knows CPR."

Beccah Hendrickson Image
Sunday, January 8, 2023
Hundreds of Philadelphia student-athletes get heart screenings
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Hundreds of student-athletes had their hearts screened in an annual event that organizers believe will help save lives.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Hundreds of student-athletes had their hearts screened on Saturday in an annual event that organizers believe will help save lives.

The nonprofit Simon's Heart held the event at St. Joe's Prep and had been planned before Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest during the Bills-Bengals game Monday night. But organizers say the incident heightened awareness and increased registrations.

"Make sure it's nice and tight," Caleb Datto told his peers as he taught them to use an AED. "There's only one thing to bring the rhythm back to the heart to make it keep doing that."

Datto is a 2022 St. Joe's Prep grad. He says teaching his peers CPR is personal.

"We just don't know when sudden cardiac arrest is going to happen to someone so, it's important that everyone knows CPR," said Datto, who has a heart condition.

He says early detection saved him and led him to Simon's Heart.

The nonprofit offers heart screening events to help prevent sudden cardiac arrest in children.

"In the case of an emergency, what's the first thing that you do?" executive director Jenn Parrado asked one group of teenagers.

Simon's Heart has visited St. Joe's Prep nearly every year since 2015 when a student-athlete died suddenly during football practice from a condition that resulted in cardiac arrest.

"I'm amazed that finally, something we have been shouting from the rooftops for years is finally on the top of the tongues of the individuals that are responsible for raising that awareness," said Parrado. "It's not just for the NFL, it's for every community, youth sports, dance, anyone really needs to have an emergency action plan in place."

Simon's Heart says one of its goals is to make heart screenings as common as getting a physical. They believe it saves lives.