Heart screenings being conducted by a local nonprofit
By Anna-Marie Menhenott
ST. LUCIE COUNTY -- Nearly 10 years ago, a hidden heart condition took the life of 17- year old Jessica Clinton, a cheerleader at St. Lucie West Centennial High School.
Since that time, her mother, Cheryl Lalloo has become an advocate to other parents and coaches to screen all children for undiagnosed heart conditions.
"Jessica always told me that she was going to be somebody... that she was going places," Ms. Lalloo said about her daughter. "Now, she's on billboards and I've talked about her on the Today show. She proved me right."
In the years since Jessica's death, Ms. Lalloo has worked tirelessly to place an automated external defibrillator, a device used to shock the heart, in every school in the county. Locally, each school has between one and five defibrillators and some coaches have a defibrillator that they can take to away games with them. There wasn't one at the school when Jessica collapsed after cheerleading practice; something that may have saved her life.
Called "Know Your Heart: 3rd annual Student Screening," the event will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 5 at the St. Lucie County Health Department. The goal is to screening 300 students, ages 5-18.
"It takes me about nine months to get all this organized," said Ms. Lalloo. "We've had so much help this year. We've come such a long way in since we began. We have had people coming in from as far away as Palm Beach County. This is open to all children in any county. We found several students that had issues that didn't know they had."
The screening will offer not only blood pressure and electrocardiogram screenings, but an echocardiogram screening, as well. When the child arrives at the screening, they are checked for height, weight, blood pressure and asked some questions by the nursing students from Indian River State College. When this is over, they are given an EKG, which is then read by a cardiologist. The results are given immediately and a copy of the test results are given to the parents.
Normally, these types of screenings can cost up to $1,000.
"This is for all students, not just for athletes," Ms. Lalloo said. "You read more about the athletes because they are out there being physical, but it can happen to any child."
Interested students are asked to register for the screening ahead of time.
"I miss her as much today as I did then," Ms. Lalloo said of Jessica. "No parent should have to go through that. We are trying to save lives. I know Jessica would want us to do that."
Preregistration is required, and parents can pre-register students at www.stayclassy.org/jessicaclinton.
For more information, call (772) 215-1912.