Carver HS death raises question about defibrillator and heart sc - WRBL

Carver HS death raises questions about defibrillator and heart screening

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COLUMBUS, Ga. -

A defibrillator was 30 feet away from the 15-year old who died last weekend while playing a pickup basketball game. An autopsy revealed Antwon Whitehead died of heart failure after collapsing on the court at Carver High School on Saturday afternoon.

Georgia state law requires defibrillators in every public school. Carver High School's is located in the training room next to the gym. The law only requires schools to have one, it doesn't require people to use it in certain situations.

There were two coaches present when Whitehead collapsed on the side of the court. One of them performed CPR on Whitehead.

The Director of Athletics at Muscogee County School District, Dr. Gary Gibson says the coaches followed protocol.  

"It's not an easy call," says Gibson. "These coaches first mindset is, if I can do the CPR, this is what I've always done, I'm comfortable with it, and so that's what they go to."

Defibrillators have only been in public schools since 2009 so they haven't necessarily been at the top of everyone's mind, especially in high-stress situations. Officials are working with schools to educate and raise awareness about the presence of the defibrillators and how to use them.

It's the second heart failure death this year with Carver athletics. Whitehead's family is calling for heart screening tests during a high school athlete's physical. Gibson says in a perfect world, they would have it, but it's an expensive and sometimes inaccurate test.

"What we found is without lots of money to test most of these [heart problems] you won't pickup," says Gibson.

"It would probably disqualify a number of athletes who were falsely identified as having a problem, which in fact they don't have," says Cardiologist Dr. Robert A Vogel. "Plus there are certain athletes who would rightly be identified but would never have a problem from it."

Gibson says instead, parents, guardians and student athletes need to be aware of symptoms that may point to heart problems. He says frequent shortness of breath and tight, chest pains may be indications that your child should get testing.

"We hope parents or guardians have a good enough relationship to begin to talk with their kids, so if they have some of these symptoms, they can go to the doctor and begin to order these tests so it's more extensive."

The pre-season physicals are regulated by the GHSA. It includes listening to the heart and a blood pressure check. Athletes also fill out a questionnaire about personal and family medical history.

The GHSA issued News 3 a statement about their student-athlete screening procedures:

"While we are certainly very concerned by recent incidents, by law, the GHSA has to use the latest edition of the physical examination form published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. And, though nothing can be a 100 percent predictor, the current exam has an extensive health history section to help identify at-risk student-athletes."

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