July 10, 2008

Mt. Lebanon Eagle Scout to Host a Heart Fair Saturday and Sunday

By Mike Cronin, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Jul. 10--A slide rule and a pair of calipers probably saved Nathan Khosla's life.

Now Khosla, 17, wants to save others.

When he was 8, the Mt. Lebanon resident passed out during swimming lessons. Khosla remembers waking up to paramedics asking if there was enough room in the parking lot for a helicopter to land to transport him to the hospital.

Tests, including an echocardiogram, showed no abnormalities. But the same thing happened during another swim lesson two weeks later. Again, the sophisticated equipment doctors used to examine Khosla found no problems.

That time, one of the doctors went old-school. He grabbed the slide rule and calipers and measured the ECG printout by hand. The doctor found that Khosla had an arrhythmia, an abnormal rhythm of the heart, which the computers couldn't detect.

"My father said, 'You have got to be kidding,'" Khosla said of his dad, Pradeep Khosla, 51, dean of engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.

The younger Khosla's experience sparked what has become his Eagle Scout project: From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, he will host a heart fair with free heart screenings, blood pressure readings, body mass index measurements and CPR classes at the Mt. Lebanon Public Safety Center.

Registration for heart screenings closed on Tuesday, but CPR classes are scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. on both days.

"I'm doing this because mine wasn't caught," said Khosla, who graduated from Mt. Lebanon Senior High School last month and plans to attend Carnegie Mellon in fall. "And since they missed mine, anyone who gets a heart screening will have a panel of cardiologists look at the results to see if there is an arrhythmia."

He credits his mother, Thespine Kavoulakis, 47, with coming up with the project idea.

Khosla's specific condition is Long Q-T Syndrome, a disorder of the heart's electrical system. He takes medication to prevent adrenaline surges from stopping his heart. He hopes his Eagle Scout project helps diagnose others with maladies that fall under what doctors call Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndrome.

Some in the medical profession advocate a national program modeled on one Italy has to reduce SADS fatalities. That country requires all its young athletes to undergo echocardiograms before competing. Some studies show that program has reduced those types of deaths by 90 percent.

About one in 200,000 high school-age athletes die each year because of SADS, according to a 12-year Minnesota study of 1.4 million student athletes in 27 sports that the American Heart Association cited last year.

Though that number is low, said Dr. Barry J. Maron of the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, "it is more common than previously thought, and does represent a substantive public health problem."

The St. Margaret Foundation in Aspinwall donated $13,000 to Khosla to put on this weekend's event.

"Nathan and his mom approached us and we were very impressed," said Dave Bianco, a St. Margaret program coordinator. "Nathan has done pretty much done it without much help from us. We give the kid credit."


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