ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — A local family has been working for more than a decade to help catch and treat potentially deadly heart conditions in children.
Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., The Jessica Clinton MVP Foundation is partnering with the St. Lucie County Health Department to host the 9th annual Know Your Heart Screening.
The partnership helps increase access to health care services, providing a free healthy heart check-up for students 5- to 20-years-old.
More than 600 children have registered for the screening at the Larry Lee Public Health building in Port St. Lucie. The screening includes an EKG and a physical. Any children with an abnormal EKG or other high-risk factors will get an echocardiogram.
The Jessica Clinton MVP Foundation has a single focus on preventing sudden cardiac arrest in children and young athletes.
Cheryl Lalloo is Jessica’s mother.
"She was very ambitious. She wanted to do everything, She was captain of the cheerleading squad. She was homecoming queen. She was on the principal’s honor roll. We used to say Jessica you can’t do everything and she’d say watch me,” Lalloo said.
Jessica was just 17-years-old when she died in 2003.
“She ended up passing away at her high school, Centennial High School, from an unknown heart defect,” said Lalloo.
Lalloo had no idea her daughter had any heart problems.
“I was upset with myself for knowing she had something that killed her and I didn’t know.”
Jessica’s parents work to prevent similar tragedies from occurring by holding free heart screenings and advocating for AEDs at all schools and parks.
Port St. Lucie native, Camilla Parra, credits the free screenings for saving her life.
She went to a screening in 2016 when she was 16 years old.
“I really just thought I was going to go in and check, make sure for them to tell me I was going to be OK,” Parra said.
But, she had some symptoms that concerned her.
“I was experiencing dizzy spells. I was always nauseous. I would experience some chest pain when I would dance,” Parra said.
Through the screening, she learned she had congenital heart disease.
She had open-heart surgery less than a month later.
“The fact that this was found before anything could have possibly happened, there was nothing else to feel but grateful for a second chance at life,” Parra said.
Now, she lives a healthy life.
“I went back into doing my normal workout routines, I’m dancing here at the University of Florida,” Parra said.
Lalloo estimates the work done through the Jessica Clinton MVP Foundation has saved at least ten lives.
They have screened more than 2,000 children.
Click here for more information about the Jessica Clinton MVP Foundation.