Orange County schools expand lifesaving heart exam program

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — As students get ready to go back to school, many of them are getting heart screenings.

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Heart screenings are required for high school student-athletes in Orange County.

The school district is expanding the program this year to include more children.

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One local student-athlete said this test saved her life.

“It was just at a high school heart screening,” said Ashlyn Scarborough, a student-athlete at Harmony High School. “I thought nothing of it. I thought I would have no issues.”

Scarborough appeared perfectly healthy but it was an ECG, also known as an EKG, that revealed a heart condition that could have killed her — Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, which she said relates to extra electrical pathways in your heart.

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Hidden heart defects like the one Scarborough has is why Orange County Public Schools require all high school students who play a sport to get screened.

The school district will team up with two organizations to offer hundreds of free ECGs and physical exams ahead of the new school year.

“Not many people realize that sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death, in all sports, in all schools,” said Evan Ernst, executive director of Who We Play For.

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Ernst started the nonprofit in memory of his teammate.

“We’ve been at this for over 10 years since we watched our teammate die with a detectable heart condition on a soccer field here in Central Florida,” Ernst said.

Ernst said the simple heart test is saving lives and in one year, Orange County detected life-threatening heart conditions in 50 children.

This year, OCPS is also making it mandatory for band members and Junior ROTC.

Scarborough is now healthy, back on the field and volunteers for the program that saved her life.

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