LAPORTE | About one half of all middle school and high school students in LaPorte voluntarily received free heart screenings in memory of a student who died in 2013 from an undetected heart condition.
More than 1,500 students were screened Thursday and Friday for arrhyphmogenic right ventricular cardio myopathy, a condition that causes the right ventricle walls to thin and eventually turn into fat and scar tissue leaving the heart unable to pump blood.
It was the first free screenings provided by the Play for Jake Foundation dedicated to preventing another LaPorte student from dying of an undetected heart condition like Jake West did at football practice.
"We were very, very pleased with the numbers," said Linda Komp, a member of the LaPorte Kiwanis Club, which contributed $10,000 to the foundation.
Boys and girls ages 12 to 19 were screened during the school day in separate makeshift exam rooms Thursday at the high school and Friday at Kesling Middle School.
Students from Boston Middle School and St. John's School were bused to the Friday screenings.
Komp said the screenings were provided by the Chicago area-based Young Hearts for Life, which sent a dozen volunteers including cardiologists and registered nurses to give each student an electrocardiogram at no cost to parents or the schools.
There will be some costs, which are still being tallied, in areas like transportation to be paid for entirely by the foundation, said Komp.
Komp said it's not known yet if any student was found with a heart condition, but parents will be contacted if there was an issue with their child for a recommendation to follow up with a family physician or specialist.
"If the number is only one we could have saved, it's very, very powerful," said Komp.
Screenings will be offered every two years to reach children now too young for a screening, those who did not sign up this year for the exam and students who later move into the district, said Komp.
West's unexpected sudden death was a source of inspiration for the football team, which during its surprise run to the state finals this season often chanted "play for Jake."