Midland Memorial Offers Free Screenings For Local Teens

by Kristen Lowe
NewsWest 9

Midland Christian's Football Coach has one word for what losing a player would be like.

"Heartbreaking," Greg McClendon said.

However, sudden cardiac arrest in high school athletes is an all too common occurrence.

"If you had one of these heart conditions and you didn't know about it, you would have a normal life," Dr. Anand Cholia, said. "But, if you do a competitive sport, you could develop a condition that could make you drop dead."

It happened four times last month alone.

16-year-old Wes Leonard was a basketball star in his home state of Michigan. He had just scored the game-winning shot on an undefeated season, when he collapsed and died on March 3rd.

A week later, Texas high school student Robert Garza collapsed during an AAU tournament in Austin. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Students Sara Landauer, from Florida, and Matthew Hammerdorfer, from Colorado also suffered the same fate within weeks of each other.

Their deaths may have been prevented with a heart screening. That's exactly what's coming to teens in the Permian Basin for free.

"We put a little jelly on your chest, put a probe on your chest, and we can see your heart and how thick the muscle is," Dr. Cholia said.

The screenings pick up all kinds of heart conditions, most commonly HCM, or the thickening of heart muscles. That is what killed both Leonard and Hammerdorfer, a reality Dr. Cholia wants to prevent in West Texas.

"If we can find one person who has one of these conditions, we can save their life," he said.

Coach McClendon is on board with that.

"Just for the peace of mind of the coaches, for the peace of mind of the players, I think it's huge," he said.