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Take Heart: Get Scanned, Save an Athlete

DomHeart21 Foundation Continues Mission for SCA Awareness

Some young athletes are more apt to die than others. Some local residents want to promote awareness of sudden cardiac arrest among our athletes. Farmingdale’s chapter of the Rotary Club met at Bollinger’s restaurant last month to discuss emerging medical technology that assesses heart function. Multifunction cardiogram is a cardiac assessment system from a company called FirstScan Health Medical. Its advocates suggest that all school athletes be screened for potential heart problems, in light of several student athletes recently dying suddenly on sports fields throughout the country.

Rotarian Tina Diamond kept noticing articles about school athletes dying while playing sports. “In March alone there were four who died nationally,” she said. She grabbed the ball, hit the books, and found Marc Horowitz, a retired school principal and current president of FirstScan. Horowitz joined Farmingdale Rotarian Fred Ferrara, who is the FirstScan’s vice president, in speaking to Rotarians and, with the help of a 17-year-old student, demonstrated how the scan works.

Horowitz explained that cardiac tests are not new; the problem is that pediatric patients are not usually given the test. The existing pediatric database, therefore, is gravely limited. Many children who may have arterial narrowing or other blood-flow concerns are totally unaware that stress caused by competitive athletics could kill them.

“Something’s not right,” Diamond said. She urged her fellow Rotarians to encourage schools to adopt the FDA-approved ischemia-detection procedure. “I will volunteer my time for administrative purposes,” she said, “and I will get on the phone to our school nurses.”

Diamond said that CPR and a defibrillator, used together, could save the life of someone experiencing cardiac malfunction. However, she contends that parents and school officials could have pre-knowledge of which students are predisposed to cardiac arrest. Horowitz explained that this is where the multifunction cardiogram gets to the heart of the matter. He said it is non-invasive and radiation-free; it uses FirstScan’s $36,000 computer and the Internet to ascertain the degree of arterial narrowing (ischemia) in a person’s body.

“We’ve found the [system] is insanely accurate,” said Horowitz. It not only measures arterial function, but also collects information for an ongoing database, which can then provide statistics for comparisons among athletes. For instance, in the multifunction cardiogram a zero is a desirable score. Test interpreters know this because each patient’s score gets compared with those in the database. A score of eight is not so good and would be, by comparison with other scores in the database, dangerously above the database’s mean, according to Horowitz.

“Anyone who is a candidate for an EKG is a candidate for multifunction cardiogram,” said Horowitz, adding, “It’s not a panacea; it’s part of a five-prong approach, which includes blood pressure screening and echocardiograms.”

Horowitz said, perhaps the multifunction cardiogram could have spared Dominic A. Murray, a 17-year-old Farmingdale State College (FSC) student athlete who died on the basketball court during an open-gym pick-up game to get ready for the regular season. He collapsed on the gym floor and died of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) in October 2009.

His mother, Melinda Murray, greeted Rotarians and spoke of the memorial foundation she has organized to give financial assistance to students in Dominic’s name. Dominic, her only child, had struggled with the sudden cardiac-related death of his father only a few years before he himself died.

“We want to help other students,” Murray said.

Diamond explained how the multifunction cardiogram could be implemented. She suggested that a school could donate the time of its school nurse. The nurse, trained by FirstScan, would administer the test to school athletes, using equipment on loan from FirstScan. The computer would then generate a report on the spot, downloaded from the Internet. The cost would be $95 to $100 per scan. Each procedure would take 10 minutes, including the self-interpreted report.

“Is the student suitable to play? That’s what we’re trying to find out,” said Ferrara.

***

Annually FSC hosts “This Is My Season” tip-off game, two basketball games played in dedication to Dominic A. Murray.

Melinda Murray, Dominic’s mother, founded the Dominic A. Murray 21 Memorial Foundation in February 2010, with a mission to raise awareness and reduce SCA in student athletes.

FSC student, Luis Charles was playing basketball with Murray the night he died. “We were all playing, having fun, and then it happened,” said Charles.

Terrence Howard, Murray’s cousin and FSC graduate, was also on the court that night. Howard believes that Murray’s life could have been saved if the response time was quicker. “No CPR certified people are required to be at open gyms,” said Howard.

There happened to be a coach in the gym when Murray collapsed, but as Howard said, “What would’ve happened if the coach wasn’t there?” Besides the coach, no one in the gym was CPR certified or knew how to use an Automated External Defibrillator (AED).

During pre-game warm-ups at the most recent basketball memorial games, FSC shooting-guard and CPR-certified Christian Nunez wore a shirt with Dominic Murray’s picture and the words “Season for a Legacy of Hope.”

“I always play hard, but tonight I’ll play extra hard for Dominic,” said Nunez.

The Dominic A. Murray 21 Memorial Foundation is on hand for the FSC events, honoring Dominic. The attendance for this game was double the average attendance for all other home games at FSC. Dominic’s mother, Melinda passed out informational fliers about SCA.

The first Dominic A. Murray 21 Scholarship was recently awarded to Maegan Hernandez of Deer Park, an applied psychology major at FSC. She was awarded a $2,100 scholarship.

Hernandez is in her senior year at FSC. A Dean’s List student, she is a member of the Psychology Club and is a volunteer head cheerleading coach. Hernandez’s essay focused on the “Importance of Early Detection Through Cardiac Screenings.” 

The Dominic A. Murray 21 Memorial Foundation held its first “Season for a Legacy of Hope” Scholarship & Awards brunch on Sunday, May 22. Scholarships were awarded to students who enrolled in Murray’s high school, Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School in Flushing, and college, FSC.

Four outstanding students from eighth grade, high school and college were recognized for their commitment to raise the awareness on SCA affecting youth, as well as for their academic achievement and service to the community. Students from Monsignor McClancy Memorial and FSC were each awarded $2,100 to help with tuition. The eighth grader received a $210 award. SCA survivors saluted the scholarship and award recipients for the essays they submitted that focused on raising the awareness on SCA through education, early detection, and early defibrillation.

Melinda Murray’s goal is to get 2,100 people CPR and AED trained. Dominic’s basketball jersey number was 21 throughout his basketball career.

The Dominic A. Murray 21 Memorial Foundation, or DomHeart21, has teamed up with the DeMatteis Center for Cardiac Research and Education at St. Francis Hospital in Greenvale for reduced-cost CPR training under the program titled “Three Tragedies, One Goal.” There are four scheduled dates remaining for the year for this program. The next one begins on Tuesday, July 12 at 6 p.m. For more information call (516) 629-2036 or visit stfrancisheartcenter.com.

Murray has begun to push a legislative bill, “Dominic’s Bill,” that would mandate all private and public schools to have cardiac screenings for all student athletes. Murray said, “early detection is important,” which will reduce deaths from SCA.

SCA can affect anyone, athlete or not, Murray urges everyone to get CPR certified and AED trained, because “each person trained is an extra heartbeat for Dominic,” said Murray.

To learn more about the foundation’s advocacy and awareness mission visit www.DomHeart21.org. For free cardiac screenings of high-school athletes go to - www.stfrancisheartcenter.com/education/StudentCardiacScreening.html.