Belton ISD offering cardiac screenings for students

The Cody Stephens Foundation says sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death among student athletes, but a simple screen can help.
Published: Apr. 12, 2022 at 5:00 AM CDT
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BELTON, Texas (KWTX) - The Cody Stephens Foundation has been working for nearly a decade to screen students for undetected heart conditions, and they are partnering with Belton ISD April 12-13 to continue their mission.

The foundation was created nearly a decade ago by Scott and Melody Stephens after their son, Cody, passed away from sudden cardiac arrest just weeks before graduating from Crosby High School.

Melody Stephens said her son was healthy, with no family history of heart issues, so they were caught off guard. Stephens said they use the foundation as a way to educate parents and families about the risks.

One in 300 young adults have an undetected heart condition that puts them at risk for sudden cardiac arrest, and Stephens said the standard physical misses 96 percent of the youth at risk.

Stephens said sudden cardiac arrest is the number one killer of student athletes, but warning signs can be detected with a cardiac screening.

Marylisa Fanning, director of health services for Belton ISD, said they’ve partnered with the foundation for the last five years.

Mark Terwilliger, resource nurse for Belton ISD, said the tests have been effective for them in the district.

“It’s cheap, it’s convenient, and it’s effective,” Terwilliger said. “And we have identified students with some underlying issues here in Belton ISD.”

Over the last decade, The Cody Stephens Foundation has partnered with hundreds of school districts around the state and screened more than 160,000 students.

Stephens said she’s found many parents aren’t aware of the risks of sudden cardiac arrest, and there aren’t many warning signs. She said even if your child is healthy and active, like Cody was, there’s no guarantee their heart is healthy.

“Just because you feel and look healthy and you’re playing sports and you’re doing ball and you’ve lifted weights, and you’re doing all these things, don’t just assume that your heart is in good shape, because it may not be,” Stephens said.

The tests only cost $21 at Belton ISD, and the screenings are done right on campus. All parents need to do is sign the form and pay. Stephens said they wanted to make it easy to sign up, and accessible for students in all areas of the state.

Stephens said if you try and get a cardiac screening on your own, it can be difficult and expensive, which can be a barrier for people.

“If it’s a lot of trouble to go through to get the appointment to go get it checked out, most people aren’t going to do that,” Stephens said. “And so we wanted to make it as easy as possible, so that it was just too easy not to do.”

If Belton ISD parents would like to sign their child up for a screening, they can find more information and register here.

You can learn more about The Cody Stephens Foundation here, or reach out to 713-451-3600 for more information.

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