Snohomish teens get their hearts, vitals checked
Nathan Whalen photo
Christine Albright, a nurse volunteer with the Nick of Time Foundation, checks the blood pressure of Owen Rainey, 14, an eighth grader at Valley View Middle School.
SNOHOMISH — More than 400 Snohomish School District students had their hearts checked last Wednesday.
Students from Snohomish and Glacier Peak high schools, as well as the district’s middle schools, came to Snohomish High’s gym where they had their blood pressure checked as well as an EKG. Then they learned “hands-only” CPR and how to use an automatic external defibrillator.
The heart checkup came about through the efforts of the Nick of Time Foundation who organized a group of around 130 volunteers that included doctors, electrophysiologists, and sports medicine professionals. Three full-time firefighters and a chaplain from Snohomish Fire checked students’ blood pressure.
The Nick of Time Foundation works to increase survivability of Sudden Cardiac Arrest through awareness and training in “hands-only” CPR and knowledge of AEDs, according to the foundation’s website.
“If we can prevent that, it’s wonderful,” volunteer Jayne Vaughan-Ellis said. She’s a retired cardiac nurse who was helping administer EKGs.
The Nick of Time Foundation started in 2006, after the death of Nick Varrenti, who had been a student at Jackson and died of Sudden Cardiac Arrest when he was 16.
Cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to the heart muscle gets partially or completely blocked. Heart attack symptoms include chest pain, upper body discomfort, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, and sweating, according to the Nick of Time foundation website.
Sudden cardiac arrest has no symptoms. While the heart continues to try pumping with a heart attack, a person in sudden cardiac arrest has no heartbeat. It quivers but doesn’t beat. There’s no pulse, no breathing, and a loss of consciousness, according to the website.
Vaughan-Ellis said the Nick of Time events usually find one student out of every 100 who needs some kind of follow-up.
Students gave several reasons for participating. Their parents signed them up to be proactive, their friends signed up, or they have a family history of heart problems.
“I’d rather do it here than at the hospital, which is more expensive,” said Thomas Ebrecht, a senior at Snohomish High.
Nick of Time last held an EKG Youth Heart Screening at Snohomish High 12 years ago.
Junior Wyatt Taylor learned CPR when he was a freshman and signed up for the heart screening when his mom told him about it. “My Dad’s a firefighter and I plan on being a firefighter.”
Darla Varrenti, Nick’s mother who is also executive director of the Nick of Time Foundation, highlighted the importance of the instruction of hands-only CPR and AED use for the students.
“We know we can’t screen every kid,” Varrenti said adding screenings are available to any child from 12 to 24.
Volunteers visit schools the first Wednesday of the month. Nick of Time visited Lake Stevens High School in September, visited Juanita in Kirkland in October and travels to Vashon Island in December.
“We have hundreds of volunteers who follow us around. Community volunteers are a huge part of our program,” Varrenti said.
Vaughan-Ellis said she’s helped at Nick of Time events in Anacortes, Chelan, Graham, and schools in Seattle. Her husband, Tim, helps with set-up and data entry with the EKGs.
For more information about Nick of Time and the programs and events they offer, go to www.nickoftimefoundation.org. The foundation has a two-year wait for schools wishing to schedule an EKG Youth Heart Screening event, Varrenti said.
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