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Heart Condition Discovery Leads to Volunteering at Annual Event to Help Other Student Athletes

AdventHealth Sports Screening

An Ormond Beach resident and mother of two active sons, Jill Piazza never gave much thought to the sports physicals she took her children to each year.

“My kids are healthy, and I went into the screenings thinking we were just checking a box,” Jill said. In 2021, she took her son Ethan to AdventHealth’s annual free sports physical event at the Daytona International Speedway. The free physical also included an optional cardiac screening.

This decision unexpectedly became life-changing, as the screening revealed the Seabreeze High School soccer player had a congenital heart condition called Wolff-Parkinson White syndrome.

AdventHealth Sports Screening 2024
Jill and Ethan Piazza volunteer at sports screenings at the Daytona International Speedway.

“The diagnosis was just a big shock, especially since I had been playing sports for so long,” Ethan said.

After undergoing treatment, Ethan returned to life as normal and is thriving as an undergraduate student at the University of Central Florida.

Deeply moved by this experience, both Jill and Ethan became inspired to help others.

“Unfortunately, other families have had children with undiagnosed heart conditions that had tragic outcomes because they didn't know about their condition,” Jill said. “As I learned about what could have happened to us, it became personally important to me to give back.”

Jill and Ethan were among the 500 volunteers who helped AdventHealth perform nearly 1,800 free sports physicals for Volusia County and Flagler County student athletes, JROTC cadets, fire academy students, and band members in April and May.

Every year since Ethan’s diagnosis, Jill has volunteered at AdventHealth’s annual event. And after Ethan’s recovery, he joined his mother and began volunteering too.

“I plan on continuing to pay it forward and give back,” said Ethan. “The screenings are a 10-minute process and it’s a potential lifesaving procedure.”

AdventHealth Sports Screening
A student and volunteer participate in the Volusia sports screening.

The impact of these screenings is profound. Across both counties, nearly 50 students were flagged for follow-up cardiac care this year. Of those, five needed immediate follow-up care, potentially saving the lives of five local teenagers.

“This is a powerful reminder of why we do this every year. While five students out of 1,800 might seem like a small number, it is important to keep in mind that this number represents five local lives,” said Erik Nason, AdventHealth manager of sports medicine and partnerships. “Identifying potential health issues like this early on can lead to timely interventions, which can truly save lives. Jill and Ethan’s experience is a testament to the immense impact of these annual screenings and serves as an example of why we are committed to this effort year in and year out.”

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