After son’s death, heart screenings become a cause

Cody’s number

In May 2012, Cody Stephensdied of sudden cardiac arrest. Although he was a robust 6’9” 289 pound 18 year old athlete at Crosby high school, he died at home sitting in a chair. He had no known heart defect, but an autopsy pointed to an enlarged heart as the probable cause.

In the year since, the grieving family has vowed to help others avoid this personal tragedy. In an emotional presentation at a local Rotary meeting, Cody’s father, Scott Stephens, explained that a simple and inexpensive EKG test (electrocardiagram) can detect heart abnormalities that can be investigated further and treated successfully.

Stephens has enlisted the aid of State Representative Sylvester Turner, and currently the legislature is considering HB 1319, which calls for this screening EKG test to be added to all student pre-athletic exams, at the modest cost of about $15. Stephens has asked the legislature to pass the bill, to save lives and to bypass the state UIL Medical Advisory Committee, which has been reluctant to act on this matter. Stephens says that over 2000 students die each year from cardiac arrest, and these could be detected and avoided with proper screening. The UIL committee says that there are too many students in Texas, and the cost as a whole would be too much.

As a parent that has lost a child, Stephens is passionate about his cause. He has established a foundation, Cody Stephens Go Big or Go Home Memorial Foundation, to raise money for telling the story, and paying for some of the screenings. “Go Big or Go Home” was Cody’s favorite saying, and his philosophy on life. Live it to the fullest, give it your all.

Stephens cites many doctors locally and nationally that agree with his cause.

He also tells the story of one school district, Huffman ISD, which has added mandatory EKG screenings to their pre-athletic physicals, with remarkable success. In the first year, they found a student, Chris Aguilar, with a defect, and sent him to Texas Children’s Hospital for treatment. He underwent 12 ablations to correct an abnormal heart, and was in surgery for 7 hours. Today he is back to normal, playing football and serving on the volunteer fire department to the fullest. This would have not been possible without the screening, and he might have died instead.

Stephens has approached individual school districts, such as Huffman, with a request that they include the EKG test in their program. He is also negotiating with Houston’s Methodist Hospital to add the test to their standard high school athlete physical exam. Although the cost is minimal, about $15, there has been some resistance to the idea, even though it is clear that lives are at risk. Methodist is considering a two year pilot program for use in Harris County. They point out that they currently have a cardiologist on hand for student physicals that they perform, and if indicated by preliminary tests, they order more checks including an EKG.

For this reason, Stephens believes that the statewide application of the test, if authorized by the legislature, would be the best for most all athletes and their families.

Stephens urges you support Cody’s Law — House Bill 1319 and ask your representative to do the same.

More information is available at www.codystephens