Dad wants mandatory heart screenings for student athletes

Dad wants mandatory heart screenings for student athletes »Play Video
One doctor told Hayward Demison, III that he had asthma but after he collapsed on the football field during last Friday's game, he was diagnosed with a heart condition.

GRESHAM, Ore. - His son’s heart stopped at a football game last week, now one father wants to change the way other high school athletes are screened for potentially life-threatening heart conditions.

Hayward Demison III was given a clean bill of health at the beginning of this year’s football season. In fact, all student athletes have to be prescreened. There is a lengthy checklist that needs to be filled out but there’s no requirement for a cardiac screening.

That is something Demison’s father, Hayward Demison Jr., said he wants to change.

The 17-year-old Demison is now recovering at home after he suffered a heart attack at last Friday night’s football game. He is waiting for open-heart surgery next week.

The Central Catholic High School football player had just scored the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. Then his heart started racing. He said on Saturday from his hospital room that he used his inhaler but that made it worse.

“I got back up and I was trying to breathe a lot more, then the next thing you know, I felt dizzy,” he said.

He collapsed and was revived two minutes later
. Hayward was diagnosed with a heart condition that one doctor had previously told him was asthma.

“I just really checked asthma (on the prescreening checklist) because that’s what I was diagnosed my freshman year,” he said.

Student athletes in Oregon are required to get a physical exam every two years. They’re asked questions like, “Have you had a broken bone … a head injury or even a heart condition.”

But not knowing about his heart, Demison never checked that box.

“I don’t want any parent to go through this ever,” said Demison’s father.

Demison’s father knows his story isn’t the first. Five years ago another Central Catholic student, David Heller, died in his sleep from an enlarged heart after a basketball game. And Grant High School student Eddie Barnett’s heart failed during a basketball game.

“I could have been one of them,” Demison said.

Knowing that, Demison’s dad says he’s fighting to make heart screenings mandatory.

“I want this a law, and I won’t stop,” he said. “I’m going to push it that no other family - starting in Oregon and across the United States - has to go through it.”

David Heller’s mom created a foundation after her son’s death. Annually, they offer heart screenings for student athletes. More than 300 people went to the last event in May. Hayward’s dad wants to make sure every student athlete is screened.

“The laws need to change,” he said. “It needs to get out there that we need to change these laws and make it a part of the physical that they have to get their heart checked.”

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