MATAWAN – A medical facility is promoting awareness of the importance of athletes undergoing cardiac related assessments prior to taking part in sports programs.
Throughout July and continuing through August, Immediate Care Medical Walk-In is donating $10 from each sports physical that is performed at one of its nine locations in central New Jersey to help benefit a local student-athlete.
The business’s fundraising initiative will help pay the medical expenses of an adolescent who is recovering from complications of a pre-existing medical condition that prompted sudden cardiac arrest during a practice session.
Darrell Rogers Jr., 16, of Matawan, had a heart attack while he was participating in a practice with an Amateur Athletic Union basketball team on May 21 at the Matawan-Aberdeen Middle School, said Gail Snyder, who is a friend of the teenager’s family and a medical assistant at Immediate Care.
“During practice, (Darrell) went for a layup. He collapsed. Some of the kids thought he was joking around. Then the kids saw he was turning blue,” Snyder said as she recalled the incident that was described to her.
Snyder said Darrell was administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) at the scene of the incident. He was airlifted to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, New Brunswick, where he was diagnosed with Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, she said.
Darrell remains in stable condition in the hospital’s rehabilitation center. His mother, Michelle Byron, said her son is undergoing treatment for what was determined to have been a pre-existing heart condition.
According to the American Heart Association, “Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy occurs if heart muscle cells enlarge and cause the walls of the ventricles (usually the left ventricle) to thicken. The ventricle size often remains normal, but the thickening may block blood flow out of the ventricle.”
Yvonne Cocchiarella, Immediate Care’s marketing and business executive, said the fact that Darrell received CPR at the middle school in the moments following his collapse was “crucial for his survival.”
Cocchiarella said the fundraising initiative is a collaborative effort among the medical professionals at Immediate Care. She said they have conducted similar fundraisers for other causes and organizations.
Cocchiarella said doctors who work at the urgent care facility are certified to perform sports related cardiac assessments as a preventative measure to detect cardiac conditions such as heart murmurs. She said a heart exam should be routine for medical practices to perform during sports physicals in order to detect premature, cardiac-related illness.
“Too many children die from a heart attack on the field or court,” Cocchiarella said, adding that a heart condition may sometimes go undiagnosed.
Snyder, Cocchiarella and Byron are suggesting that young athletes be screened for potential heart conditions prior to participating in sports.
“Athletics push these kids so much. This (testing) should be mandatory,” Snyder said.
Electrocardiagrams (EKG) and or echocardiograms should be included on sports physicals in order to pre-determine abnormalities with an individual’s heart, should any exist, Snyder said.
According to the Heart Foundation, an EKG records the heart’s rhythm and will pinpoint abnormalities, if they exist, in the muscles of the organ. An EKG can also detect areas of the heart that may have an insufficient supply of oxygen. Similarly, an echocardiograms is an ultrasound of the heart that is used to analyze the current condition of the heart and how its valves are functioning.
Cocchiarella said the medical professionals at Immediate Care “take it a step further” by performing routine cardiac examinations during all sports physicals.
In addition to recommending regular cardiac examinations, medical professionals at Immediate Care encourage coaches to earn a certification in CPR and to acquire an automated external defibrillator in case a cardiac emergency occurs during a sporting event or practice.
Cocchiarella said athletes should undergo a complete physical once a year or before the beginning of each new athletic season.
Immediate Care Medical Walk-In centers are in Brick Township, East Windsor, Edison, Hazlet, Lacey, Marlboro, Red Bank and Toms River. For more information pertaining to sports physicals, visit immcare.com
In addition to playing AAU basketball, Darrell was a member of the Matawan Regional High School varsity basketball team as a sophomore during the 2017-18 season.