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'Play For Patrick' Helps Early Detection Of Heart Health Issues

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The sudden death of a 14-year-old hockey player changed his family's life forever.

Patrick Schoonover of Eagan died during a game in 2014 from Sudden Cardiac Arrest. Patrick's parents had no idea he was living with undiagnosed heart defects.

Now, his family is now on a mission to save others from the anguish they endured.

In a high school gym, with help from professional medical volunteers, answers take shape -- for questions many never get to ask.

"We do an EKG, we do an echo, and then we teach the kids how to do CPR and AED training," Mike Schoonover said.

Mike's 14-year-old son Patrick appeared to be healthy in every way.

"The feeling of losing a child -- I wish we would have had this opportunity," he said. "He would extend his hand out to help others."

Patrick died in November of 2014, during a hockey game, when he developed an aneurysm in his aorta that burst. He had a structural heart defect.

"Similar to kinking a garden hose," Mike said.

Like many kids his age, Patrick complained of leg pains, which his parents thought were just growing pains.

"Really, he had low blood pressure in his legs," Mike said.

They want other parents to be sure.

"They don't know if their son or daughter has a healthy heart or not, and they should know," Mike said. "We need to do something."

The Schoonover family started Play For Patrick -- a nonprofit aiming to screen as many school-aged children as possible for signs of heart defects, using tools most kids wouldn't have access to during regular physical exams.

"There's got to be a process where it can be done where it's easy and affordable," Mike said.

But such exams are controversial -- doctors say they can yield inaccurate results that lead to undue worry and testing.

"We don't want to overblow this," Mike said. "We just want to find the rights ones -- the ones that do have some issue."

But the Schoonover family says it's now their calling in life -- to make a difference.

"He's looking down on us and he's proud, and that makes us feel better," Mike said. "He knows we are continuing where he left off."

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