Charlie Kanter is heading off to The Ohio State University this fall. His parents may worry about Charlie’s grades or how well he will handle his newfound independence, but the one thing they will not have to worry about is Charlie’s heart.

Though the Max Schewitz Foundation had been to Deerfield High School in years past, last year was the first time Charlie’s mom, Missy, signed him up for EKG testing. There was always so much paperwork to get through and too many emails to return at the start of each school year; signing up was not a priority. And besides, Charlie was obviously healthy, an athlete. An EKG just didn’t seem urgent.

Last Fall, Charlie was tested along with hundreds of other Deerfield High School students. It never occurred to him, his parents or his basketball coaches that something might be wrong. He never felt like he was going to have a heart attack, he didn’t feel pain in his chest. He didn’t pass out. He competed in sports. He felt perfectly healthy.

But Charlie’s EKG revealed an abnormality and the potential for Charlie’s heart to malfunction.

Two days later, after Charlie’s test results received a second opinion, Mary Beth called Charlie’s mom, Missy to let her know the findings. Missy was floored to discover that Charlie had been diagnosed with Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome (WPW), a condition where the heart has an extra electrical connection which can cause a multitude of symptoms and sudden death.

Charlie came home from school that afternoon and was shocked to be told of his condition.

Missy and Charlie’s dad, Steve, who is a physician, wasted no time. Charlie saw a specialist the following day. He was scheduled to have a cardiac ablation to remove the extra electrical bundle in his heart, on his 18th birthday.

So while many kids get a party or great present to unwrap on their 18th birthday, Charlie woke in the wee hours of the morning to have a procedure that could save his life.

Charlie’s diagnosis is not uncommon. WPW is present in three of every thousand people. People who have WPW do not always show symptoms or know that they have symptoms because they have been living with WPW their whole lives. They assume everyone experiences the same feelings. They attribute symptoms to exercising too hard or to being dehydrated. Often people do not know it is a heart related symptom until it is too late.

Charlie’s story has a happy ending. You can imagine his parents’ joy and relief. What seemed like a whirlwind of fear was over in a matter of days. To listen to the family talk about it now, you’d think they were talking about ancient history. It was an easy-read in the chapters of their lives.

Two weeks after his procedure, Charlie was zip-lining over the tree tops of Costa Rica on a family vacation, not a worry in the world, healthy as can be.

Ask Charlie now about getting an EKG and this is what he will tell you. ‘It seemed incredibly unlikely that anything like this could ever happen to me. I was lucky that EKGs were offered at my school and that I actually signed up for one. Now, I am just thankful that I caught something that was potentially life threatening and took care of it. It is scary to think I could have missed this and that I could still have it today when it was so easy to catch. I believe in EKG screenings and definitely recommend one. It is far better to be safe than sorry.’

We couldn’t agree more, Charlie, we couldn’t agree more.

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