Heart Screening Saves 15 Year Old Lantana Resident

Heart Screening Saves 15 Year Old Lantana Resident

Too often we hear about student athletes suffering from cardiac arrest without a warning.  Thirteen-year-old Alex Betzhold was an Argyle seventh grader who was active in football, basketball and band. In January 2012, Alex died in his sleep of an undiagnosed heart condition bringing an entire community to
its knees. 

“I heard about Alex’s situation and processed it as a parent as such a tragedy but I didn’t process it as a risk my child could face,” said Lantana resident Liz Thrailkill. “My kids never had anything outside of a cold.”

Liz’s son Camden, an incoming freshman, was practicing with the Guyer High School football team when head football coach John Walsh brought in Living for Zachary to perform heart screenings for the players. It was an optional test and out of 200 players, about half participated and went through the screening.

“I thought to myself this is a no-brainer, ” said Liz. “I mean, why wouldn’t we
do this?”

She’s very glad now that they did.

Camden played in the first preseason scrimmage and had already left for football practice one morning when Liz got a call from cardiologist Dr. Steven Mottl at the Denton Heart Group. Dr. Mottl said Camden had a valve that’s wasn’t working well and until they could do further testing, he had to be benched.

Camden had had his UIL physical just weeks before and it showed nothing. Not only was he not symptomatic, he had played just about every sport at Harpool Middle School breaking four school records in athletics including some in football and weight lifting. So how could this happen?

“When we told Camden, he thought it was a joke at first,” said Liz. “He kept telling us he didn’t get light-headed, dizzy or have chest pains. He was shocked.” 

From there, things moved very quickly. 

Dr. Mottl had Camden in for a 3D echocardiogram. It was found that he had an Isolated Cleft Mitral Valve which is a serious heart defect.  They would need to do surgery immediately. Camden was 15.

“We asked the doctor if Camden would ever play football or baseball again,” said Liz. “The doctor said he couldn’t commit.”

Camden came home from the hospital three days later and was back at school only three weeks later. 

By December, Camden was working out, and by the end of January he was ready for baseball tryouts and made the team.

Despite missing so much school, his GPA was a 4.8 and he got his learner’s permit, following through with all the milestones that kids his age should be doing. The best news, however, is that his heart murmur was completely fixable. Had they not detected it, he would have had heart failure in a couple of years. 

“Parents need to know that a situation like this is fixable,” said Liz. “The main tool they use to check your heart is a stethoscope and a family history. There are more advanced screening options available but it’s not state required so they don’t go any further.”

Living for Zachary will be providing these screenings for free at the 5th Annual Shoot for the Stars Community Event and Basketball Tournament on Saturday, May 13 at Argyle High School. Appointments are required and space is limited. To schedule, call 469-815-3565 option 4. For those unable to attend, there are screenings available at Baylor Heart Hospital in Denton for only $55.
Shoot for the Stars is a huge family fun event in Argyle held every year in honor of Alex Betzhold. The all-day celebration includes 3 on 3 basketball tournaments, the Unicef one-mile color run, lots of games and booths for the kids and dinner at Fuzzy’s with a silent auction and live music from George Dunham and The Bird Dogs along with many other local musicians. Vendors will be on hand all day with food, snacks and goodies for the whole family.

Shoot for the Stars is a great opportunity not only to celebrate the life of Alex Betzhold, but to remember how important heart screenings are. 

“The ones we’ve lost have left a legacy and an opportunity for all our children,” said Liz. “There are kids out there with undetected heart problems and a simple screening and 30 minutes could save them.”

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