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Changes coming for young athletes

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

What are the odds your child is suffering a deadly disease and you don't even know it? For $15 would you find out for sure and fix the problem or would you take the risk and simply hope for the best? For one father, who is fighting to spread the word about sudden cardiac arrest in children, the answer is simple. Scott Stephens says you don't gamble with your child's life. Thanks to Stephens some changes are coming here in Texas.

Stephens' son was headed to college on a football scholarship. Cody was 18-years-old, strong and full of life until he fell asleep one day in his dad's chair and died when his heart gave out without warning. "You hurt. I mean you just hurt. You try not to wear your friends out with it but it's always there," says Stephens.

 

Since losing his son Cody in May 2012 Stephens has worked to arm other parents with information to protect their kids from what killed Cody, an enlarged heart, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. "Cody was my running buddy. I'm 6'7". He was 6'9", smiles Stephens.

Cody showed no signs of heart trouble. Stephens has since learned that's common. He's fighting to change the law to make heart screenings mandatory for middle and high school students. That hasn't happened but beginning August first every kid in the state who plays sports will get forms spreading sudden cardiac arrest awareness when they get their physical exam. "It's big. I cried when I saw it. Every athlete in the state of Texas will have to read this, sign it and their parent too," says Stephens. It's a new requirement by the UIL, University Interscholastic League. Stephens traveled to Austin repeatedly speaking to anyone who would listen. "I went over there six times, between the state legislature and the UIL".

Stephens also started the Cody Stephens Foundation (http://www.codystephensfoundation.org/) raising money to pay for electrocardiograms or EKG's for student athletes. "We are part of screening 12,000 kids this year. As crazy as it sounds I'm almost living two lives. I want to live my life and I want to do some of what he would have accomplished," Stephens explains.

The foundation travels the state setting up screenings at schools. "If you'll put in a screening program we want to help you. We're not coming to sell you anything. We're coming with money. We want to save these kids," explains Stephens.

"EKG is a cheap test that gives you a lot of information and can prevent serious outcomes," says Pediatrics Specialist Dr. Manish Parikh with Memorial Hermann Memorial City Hospital. Dr. Parikh says an EKG will catch about 90% of heart problems in kids. It costs about $15.

"Can you imagine me having the opportunity to back up and pay $15 to save Cody's life?" asks Stephens.

 

He knows that can't happen but Stephens is pointing that out because those against mandatory heart screenings have said they would cost too much. This father knows all too well about paying a high price. "I can tell you the cost for not doing it. I can take you to the cemetery and show you a wonderful headstone".

 

The college Cody signed to has mandatory heart screenings. Cody was just two months away from getting an EKG, a simple test that could have detected his heart problem, which may have been able to be fixed with surgery.

The Texas Heart Institute is conducting a study to learn more about just how prevalent sudden cardiac arrest is in kids. The study is expected to confirm the importance of kids getting an EKG. 10,000 kids are being given free EKG's and MRI's to screen for heart problems. 4,000 children have already been tested. To find out more information about the study go to www.texasheart.org or call the Texas Heart Institute at 713-218-2112.

Find the Cody Stephens Foundation on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/#!/CodyStephensGoBigOrGoHomeMemorialFoundation . Please find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/DamaliKeithFOX26?ref=br_tf

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