KPRC teams up with The Cameron Juniel Project to provide free heart screenings

By Bill Spencer - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - At 16 years old, 6-feet-tall and 180 pounds, Chase Garrison of Pearland hits the gym like a pile driver hits the concrete.

He is totally focused and always pushing himself to go harder and further on the weights.

“I always push myself to be more than the best I can be, because I know that’s what’s going to make me better … stronger,” Garrison said.

A varsity quarterback on his high school team, Garrison has been playing football since he was just 6 years old.

On the field, folks say he looks invincible, like nothing could possibly stop him.

“On the field he just transforms into this leader, this I’ve got to make this happen, I’ve got to score this touchdown guy,” Jaquetta Garrison, Chase’s mother, said.

But as powerful and gifted as he looks now, at just 13, Chase, unbeknownst to him or anyone else, was running around with a ticking time bomb in his chest, a serious, hidden heart defect no one knew he had, that was closing off blood flow to his young heart.

“We didn’t know, but Chase could have died on the field. Chase could have died running up the stairs. Chase could have died simply walking quickly to the car. Chase could have died at any given moment and we would not know why,” Jaquetta said.

But in a move she believes saved her son’s very life, Chase’s mom says she heard about a free, teen heart screen for student athletes and decided to take Chase and his sister to the event to be tested.

There, the tests discovered a hidden abnormality in Chase’s heart.

Chase was sent to a heart specialist and a diagnosis was made.

From there, Chase was advised to have surgery to repair his malformed heart and after many more tests and decision making, Chase and his parents decided he would go through with surgery.

Now, to help kids all over Metropolitan Houston, kids like Chase, KPRC-TV, Channel 2 is teaming up with The Cameron Juniel Project, The Cody Stephens Go Big Or Go Home Foundation, River Oaks Paint And Body, the city Of Pearland and the Houston Texans to offer children, teens and adults, ages 11 to 25, a free, in-depth, heart screen.

The first one is happening on Saturday Aug. 4 at the Pearland Recreation Center. The second one at the Crosby Community Center on Aug. 18.

These free, heart screens will provide hundreds of young people with a fast, painless, electrocardiogram test and if needed an echocardiogram test following that.

Scott Stephens, whose own son Cody, a star football player at Crosby High School died of a hidden heart defect in 2012, says these heart screens go light years beyond the typical high school sports exam using a stethoscope.

In fact, Stephens has been fighting since 2013 to make these heart screens mandatory for all high school athletes.

“It is a fact that using a stethoscope we can find about 3 percent of the heart problems that can lead to sudden cardiac arrest. But by doing what we are doing with these EKG’s, we can catch 86 percent. We have been doing these sports exams the same way for 40 years … things need to change. We need to use the technology that we have to save young lives. These tragic deaths in young people on the field are preventable,” Stephens says.

As for Chase and his future, surgeons did repair his heart and Chase went back to playing football.

Now, 3 years later, he is a star quarterback, in the best shape of his life and preparing for his senior year and hopefully college football after that.

“I feel better than I ever did before. I feel like I am at my peak at this time and I can only get better from here,” Chase said with a big smile on his face and a long, jagged scar on his chest.

It is a beautiful scar.

Here at KPRC, we are on a mission to protect your children, your teens, your young athletes from ever having to endure the tragedy of a sudden cardiac event, from potentially dying on an athletic field.

So, that is why we, along with our caring and generous partners, are offering your children two, totally free, upcoming, heart screens in August, just in time for the new school season.

The first, The Cameron Juniel Project Heart Screen, in honor of Pearland’s Cameron Juniel, who died playing basketball from a hidden heart ailment, will be held Saturday Aug. 4 at the Pearland Recreation Center, where Cameron died, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR THE AUG. 4 SCREENING

The second, The Cody Stephens Foundation Heart Screen, in honor of Cody Stephens, who also died of a hidden heart defect, will be held Aug. 18 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Crosby Community Center.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR THE AUG. 18 SCREENING

You must register your children in advance and you can easily do that by clicking on one of the links above.

These events are free, but a $20 donation will be accepted if you would like to contribute and help fund future events like these aimed at saving our young athletes precious lives.

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