Checking Hearts to Save Lives

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. -- Julie Walker from Mechanicsburg, remembers the day five years ago she got the phone call: her daughter Peyton had been rushed to the hospital.

The sophomore Kings College Physician Assistant student died that day of sudden cardiac arrest.

"She was just a normal teenage kid on a college campus. You never expect it to happen to a child. You don't hear of kids dying from heart issues," said Walker.

Julie recalls leaving the hospital with a bag containing Peyton's clothing. Five weeks later, she worked up the nerve to go through it.

"Pulled out the t-shirt and every hair on my body stood on end. It said, 'What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others remains and is immortal' and I was like wow, Peyton, what a message you left," said Walker.

That was the beginning of the Peyton Walker Foundation, a group that works to provide free heart screenings to kids ages 12-19. The foundation has screened some 1,500 kids in the Harrisburg area but it's holding its first screening in our area in a few weeks and students at Kings College will volunteer.

"I had taught some of her colleagues and some of the alums who will volunteer and come back to be a part of our heart screening event," said Joann Kosik, the Director of Student Health Services at Kings College.

"Perfectly healthy kids are the ones we're hoping to see," said Dr. Matsumura.

Geisinger is a partner for the event in October. Cardiologist Dr. Martin Matsumura says they'll be on hand for the screenings.

"We'll be interpreting EKG's, deciding who needs more screenings then discussing the findings with the students and their parents," said Dr. Matsumura.

"Parents take comfort, they think, my kids are getting sports physicals, routine health physicals, and they think that's enough. But we're not checking kids hearts. A stethoscope is going to miss 95% of electric problems. It can hear plumbing issues but a stethoscope can't hear an electric problem," said Walker.

Julie says at every screening so far they have found at least one serious heart issue that required further intervention. She knows that would make Peyton proud.

"She wanted to work in healthcare. So this is our way of making sure she's still working in healthcare and she really is saving lives," said Walker.

The heart screenings are Saturday, October 6 at the Kings College building on the square. They are free but you do need to register first to choose your time. You can do that through the Peyton Walker Foundation website.