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Girl Scout creates program to offer free heart screenings

05/16/2016 9:00 AM |

Jordan McClintock

Fighting cardiac disease is a cause that has always been close to Jordan McClintock’s heart.

Jordan, a sophomore at Shoreham-Wading River, has experienced the dangers of heart disease firsthand. Her grandfather died at just 50 years old after he was diagnosed with a heart condition too late to treat in time.

“If something had been done before…” she said. “I wish some research could have been done.”

Jordan knows of others, including teenagers, who have died from undiagnosed heart conditions. The sophomore wants to make sure that same tragedy doesn’t strike the North Fork.

As part of a Girl Scout project, Jordan is now working with a Long Island nonprofit to offer free heart screenings at Shoreham-Wading River High School this fall to students across the East End. They would be conducted by physicians using electrocardiogram equipment by the Northport-based group HeartScreen New York.

“[The doctors] just check them out and make sure everything’s OK,” said Jordan, a Wildcats field hockey player. Depending on the turnout and number of physicians available, dozens of students could be examined.

Jordan hopes the screenings will detect heart abnormalities that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. Family doctors can be notified of the findings and the student’s family can follow up if a defect is discovered, Jordan said.

Jordan came up with the idea while getting tested herself at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn late last year. While waiting to be screened, she noticed students who had traveled from eastern Suffolk County — as far away as Greenport — and realized, she said, “We should have something like this in Shoreham.”

Heart defects could become apparent at any time and have devastating consequences, said Shoreham-Wading River athletic director Mark Passamonte, who is serving as Jordan’s assistant on the project.

“You hear of these world-class athletes that are in the best shape of anybody dropping and dying because there was an undetected birth defect that they didn’t know about,” he said.

Jordan and Mr. Passamonte are working closely with the Louis J. Acompora Memorial Foundation, which honors the memory of a Northport High School lacrosse player who died in 2000 at age 14 after a routine play triggered his heart to stop.

The screenings would be held either after school or on a weekend to make them more convenient for students to attend. The plan is part of Jordan’s Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest available honor in the group and similar in scope to Eagle Projects by Boy Scouts.

Mr. Passamonte said other Long Island school districts have offered heart screenings similar to the ones Jordan hopes to bring east. Those districts found the tests to be “very beneficial,” he said, and even caught some issues that were followed up on later.

But the push to bring heart screenings to the North Fork came from Jordan alone, Mr. Passamonte said.

“I commend Jordan,” he said. “I can just tell she’s a leader … When you have kids like this in your school, it just makes it great.”

Mr. Passamonte is convinced Jordan will go on help others beyond her Gold Award project.

“You just watch,” he said. “You’re going to see about her and read about her more.”

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