Nonprofit created in honor of fallen Glen Oaks player helps screen student-athletes for heart problems

When the news came down that the son of LeBron James had suffered cardiac arrest during a workout this week, it stirred up some painful memories.
Published: Jul. 26, 2023 at 10:57 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - When the news came down that the son of NBA superstar LeBron James, Bronny James, had suffered cardiac arrest during a workout this week, it stirred up some painful memories in the Baton Rouge community.

In 2008, Glen Oaks High School star point guard Shannon Veal stepped to the foul line in a playoff game.

Moments after she knocked down the foul shots, she collapsed on court and died.

Doctors discovered a few days later that Veal died from a condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or an enlarged heart, which went undetected up to the moment she passed away.

Legendary head coach Harvey Adger was coaching the boy’s team at Glen Oaks when Veal died.

“It was very devastating because it was unexpected,” said Adger. “It really affected all of us, the Glen Oaks family and the Glen Oaks community.”

Doctors say her condition is one of the most common causes of death in young athletes.

Sadly, there are only a few warning signs, such as chest pain, shortness of breath or passing out in practice.

Her untimely passing eventually led to the birth of a non-profit, and a new law, to possibly save young athletes in the future.

“We don’t want to continue to talk about it and deal with the emotional shock and awe with every student athlete. Let’s do something to see if we can get ahead of this and prevent it from happening,” said Dr. Steven Kelly.

Dr. Kelly is an interventional cardiologist at the Baton Rouge Cardiology Center, and founded the nonprofit Jump Start Your Heart, Inc.

The foundation partners with different schools across the region to give free health screenings to young athletes to specifically check for any underlying heart conditions.

Kelly said the organization is dedicated in memory of Veal.

“Medicine is not black and white, it’s shades of grey I’d like to say. That’s why I think it’s important that we do screenings to catch things because not everyone will have symptoms,” said Kelly.

Kelly efforts also sparked a new law that could also help save lives.

Gov. Edwards recently signed a bill that will make it a requirement for every school in the state to have a defibrillator and someone trained to use it on hand.

In some cases, Kelly said the first sign can be a worst-case scenario.

“Most student athletes are healthy, and most will be fine, but there a certain percentage of them that might have an underline cardiac condition that their first symptom could be certain cardiac death,” said Kelly.

He believes the combined efforts will signal a new age of athlete safety.

“We operate under the principle that, if we save one life, then I’m happy,” said Kelly.

For more information about Jump Start Your Heart, Inc., click here.

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