The tragic death last year of Reggie Garrett, who collapsed during a football game, brought community awareness of the health of student athletes to the forefront. One of the things that can cause a seemingly healthy athlete’s untimely death  is Hypertrophic Cardiomyophaty, known as HCM.
Memorial Hermann Baptist Hospital of Orange and the HCM Association (HCMA) are partnering to bring HCM to the attention of student athletes, their coaches and their families.

Jarrin Garret, the chief administrator of the hospital, M.E. Castellanos, M.D. a local cardiac specialist and Benjamin Lee who is sponsored by the HCMA are touring area schools with a presentation about HCM. They are providing information on the symptoms, testing and treatment of HCM.

HCM is a condition that affects over 600,000 people in the U.S. It is the leading cause of sudden death in young people, including athletes. Each year 125 to 200 athletes will die, one third of them will die from HCM. Though no reason is known for the disparity, one half of all those that die will be Afro-American. The symptoms of HCM mimic those of several other heart conditions.

“Family history is very important. A student may take one of our questionnaire forms home and have the family help them fill it out. It is important that the family members assist in filling out this form; they know history that the student alone may not know. If you answer ‘yes’ to any of the questions, go to your physician and consult with him or her and discuss the options for diagnosing HCM. Here in Orange we have all of the diagnostic equipment necessary to discover if you have HCM. There is no reason to go out of town,” said Dr. Castellanos. “In the old days, players played ‘tough’ they would play when they were hurt or sick and things would happen to them that would cause them to have problems later in life. You do not need to do that. If you are hurt or not feeling good, talk to your coaches and they will work with you to keep you healthy.”

“If you suspect that someone at school has had a cardiac incident, call for help fast. The school has the defibrillators and people trained to use them and will call 911 and get the person to the hospital as soon as possible. Speed is important,” said Dr. Costellanos.

Athletic Director Randy Crouch told the assembly that LCM had two cardiac defibrillators at the school in case of cardiac arrest with anyone at the school.

With an attendance of 1200 at LCM and HCM occurring in one in 500, there is a possibility of two to three students having HCM and not being aware of their condition.

Benjamin Lee is one person who was fortunate enough to discover HCM in a routine health check. Lee went to the doctor for a checkup and only one thing was wrong. It was his heart. It was discovered that he had HCM. There is a genetic condition in Lee’s family that affects the heart muscle. Since that visit in 1997, he has had an implanted defibrillator.

“I am a pastor of a church in Beaumont; so far the defibrillator has not gone off. It would be bad if it went off when I was preaching,” said Lee with a smile. “I cannot stress to you how important it is to check for this condition. I did not feel bad; I had no way of knowing that I had this condition. It could have killed me and it could kill you. I feel so strongly about trying to inform people about this that I am sponsored by the HCMA to do these presentations. Please take a form home and fill it out and go visit with your doctor.”

“Though Reggie Garrett did not die from HCM, he did have a condition that he did not know about. We at the hospital want the public to be aware of conditions like these and also know that we have doctors like Dr. Costellanos that know about these conditions, especially HCM and are able to diagnose and treat them here in Orange. We have been to Vidor and after leaving here we will schedule meetings at the other area schools. HCMA is a non-profit organization who provides the materials and speakers like Mr. Lee to go into communities and do presentations,” said Garrett.

When Dr. Costellanos asked Coach Crouch if he made the meeting mandatory since there was such a large attendance, Crouch replied, “I tried to.”

For obtaining more information about HCM, the website is: