PHOENIX, AZ — On the field since he was 9 years old, Anthony Bates was a born athlete. He thrived on baseball, soccer, and wrestling. But his true love was football. This sport would take him all the way to the Division I Team at Kansas State University at the height of his career. He was a strong, dedicated athlete who was in his prime. But at the young age of 20 years old, Anthony Bates died from a Sudden Cardiac Arrest event. His SCA event stemmed from an un-diagnosed heart condition.
He went through over 25 pre-participation physicals through his sports endeavors. Each one showed him to be in perfect health. But under that clean bill was a heart condition no one would catch. It wasn’t caught because none of the physicals required a heart screen.
Nearly 20 years later, his mom, Sharon Bates, is paving a path of prevention to ensure his story is not repeated in the lives of other young athletes.
One thing was obvious: Anthony’s death was preventable. He died from a heart condition known as Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy or HCM. This is a genetic condition that attacks the muscles of the heart. It usually strikes in teenage years. As with many heart conditions, it can be found through a preventative heart screen. When HCM is caught early through screening, there is little
effect on an individual’s life. A cardiologist and/or cardiac surgeon can provide corrective medications, heart procedures and possible implanted internal defibrillators (ICDs) to prevent a Sudden Cardiac Death. In most cases, when necessary medical intervention steps are put into place an individual diagnosed with HCM leads a productive active life.
Because preventive heart screenings are not a part of sports physicals, Anthony’s condition was never caught. And it ended up taking his life. Through her volunteer work with an HCM association, Sharon learned of these dangers. She knew that something needed to be done. Future families needed to be protected from enduring the loss she suffered.
In 2002, she launched the non-profit Anthony Bates Foundation (ABF) in her son’s memory. There she began her mission to promote and make heart screenings commonplace. Both for students on a whole, but also student athletes nationwide. Nationwide Heart ScreeningsThe first set of heart screenings under ABF took place in areas that were significant in Anthony’s life. Manhattan, Kansas, where he attended college. Phoenix, Arizona, where he graduated from high school. Both events included an outpouring of community support and enthusiasm. They were also met with dedicated volunteers, both in and out of the medical field.
And the prevention work only grew from there.
Sharon has trained dozens of heart screening teams. And those teams have also screened hundreds of thousands of young hearts because of her work. Sharon’s data concludes that about 1 in 7 people she screens have some sort of heart issue. Many findings point to potentially life-threatening condition! This is the urgency behind her mission.
They have held over 100 large school heart screenings. There, more than 15,000 youth participated. Their screenings involve echo-cardiograms, ECG tests, and blood pressure readings. These tests undergo review by Board Certified Cardiologists. They then consult with participants whose screen shows a heart abnormality.
From those screenings, 358 lives have been saved
Andrew Pieper was 20 years old when he underwent an heart screening at one of ABF’s events. There he learned he had a heart condition that could lead to an SCA event. One week later, he had a procedure to correct this issue and continue on living a normal life. Currently, Andrew is a deputy in the Napa, CA Sheriff’s Department. These are just two stories among the hundreds of lives saved. All because of the preventative heart screenings conducted by the Anthony Bates Foundation. And their mission towards SCA prevention. Anthony’s legacy lives on!
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