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Campbell school district becomes first in California to screen all student athletes for heart conditions

Student athletes in the Campbell Union High School District will now be screened for heart conditions this school year through a partnership with a Los Gatos-based nonprofit.

The district’s board of trustees partnered with the Kyle J. Taylor Foundation to screen its student athletes in grades 9 and 11 for heart abnormalities or conditions to prevent sudden cardiac arrest.

The Los Gatos-based foundation was formed in honor of Kyle John Taylor, a Leigh High School graduate who died of sudden cardiac arrest in 2019, despite appearing healthy and normal.

“The day of his cardiac arrest, he went to school at West Valley College and came home, went to go hang out with some friends,” said Jennifer Sarmento, Taylor’s mother and founder of the organization. “[We] had no clue whatsoever that this was going to happen. We really try to emphasize to people that just because they seem healthy doesn’t necessarily mean they are.”

Under the agreement, the school district would require that cardiac screenings are included in the pre-participation physicals for its student athletes during the 2022-23 school year.

Each season, the foundation will host a screening event for 9th and 11th grade students throughout the district. Sarmento said this year is a pilot year the screening program, and it could expand to a multi-year commitment. This partnership is the first of its kind in the state.

“We’re motivated to make an impact in our community and hopefully save a family from this unimaginable grief of losing your child to sudden cardiac arrest, especially when it can possibly be prevented,” Sarmento said.

Kalen Gallagher, president of the district’s board of trustees, said he hopes the partnership is “an example to other districts,”

Gallagher said he is proud of everyone who “came together to make something positive out of such a tragedy,” and he is “happy to do this for our students.”

One in 300 kids have an undiagnosed heart condition, and sudden cardiac arrest is the No. 1 killer of student athletes, Sarmento said.

“The pre-participation physicals the kids currently do miss 90% of those because they can’t be heard through a stethoscope; they have to be seen through an EKG machine or an echocardiogram machine,” Sarmento said. “That’s why we bring those in for that extra step.”

The foundation has hosted seven community screening events at local schools since 2019, where 12 students were identified with heart abnormalities or cardiovascular conditions.

The screening process takes about an hour. Students’ height, weight, blood pressure and family history are recorded, followed by the EKG test. The results are reviewed by a doctor and shared with the family, and in some cases a follow-up echocardiogram is performed.

Students are also given a quick CPR and AED training.

Sarmento said six students in the district have died from sudden cardiac arrest in the last decade.

The foundation is 100% funded through donations, and it costs $40 per student to conduct a screening.

“For me as a mom, I really want to encourage people to talk to their kids about their heart health,” Sarmento said. “That wasn’t a conversation we had with my son because it wasn’t one I thought we needed to have. And so, really talk to your kids and encourage them to speak up about symptoms.”

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