Young Hearts for Life Can Save Lives

By Rep. Mark Batinick – State Representative, 97th District

Each week, sudden cardiac death claims the lives of more than 60 young adults in the United States. This tragedy hit us close to home most recently in February when an eighth-grade student at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Plainfield collapsed while playing basketball and died from an undetected heart condition. We may be able to prevent future tragedies like this from happening. Thanks to a remarkably successful initiative in the Chicago area called Young Hearts for Life (YH4L), founded and led by cardiologist Dr. Joseph Marek, our community can step up and take advantage of a proven screening program that literally saves lives.

On April 7, I convened a meeting at my office in Plainfield for local school administrators, parents, elected officials, and leaders of civic organizations to hear directly from Dr. Marek about the Young Hearts for Life Cardiac Screening Program, nationally known for its unique model, which has screened over 110,000 students for conditions that cause sudden cardiac death. This milestone is a first for any heart screening program of this kind in the United States. The YH4L screening program’s model uses trained community volunteers to deliver low-cost, efficient EKG screenings. Dozens of schools throughout northern Illinois have utilized this program since 2006. The screenings are free to students and medical privacy is fully respected in accordance with HIPAA laws. Students with suspicious EKG results are referred to their primary care physician for further evaluation.

I want to bring this initiative to Plainfield, Oswego and Shorewood area schools here in our community.

The response to Dr. Marek’s presentation at our April 7 meeting was tremendously positive. Our local school districts are receptive and ready to explore the next steps in the process. The Young Hearts for Life model is exceptional, but it depends on the cooperation of local parents and schools to make it a success. It is a voluntary program, as it should be – we already have far too many government mandates on schools and regulations that limit parental choice.

The Junior Woman’s Clubs from Plainfield, Oswego, and Joliet have expressed their interest in helping to raise the necessary funds and recruit volunteers. Yet the fact remains, we all need to step up to make this happen. If you are interested in connecting with my office about this endeavor, please email us at We will be in need of volunteers and sponsors.

I encourage you to learn more about the Young Hearts for Life Screening Program by visiting Read and you will be convinced. Together, as a community of volunteers, we can save the lives of our teens and young adults who may have an undetected heart condition.