Shawnee HS student brings awareness, helps offer heart screenings

Clark-Shawnee Schools have partnered with the MCORE Foundation to offer reduced-cost preventive heart screenings to student-athletes this week.

Bringing awareness to heart diseases is a cause that the district is passionate about because of one high school student’s journey.

Zachary Spitzer was diagnosed with an undetected coronary artery anomaly about three years ago.

“I didn’t have any signs. No chest pain, no out of breath,” he said. “At the end of races I would collapse and it was so bad one time that I had to go to the ER. The doctor said that I was dehydrated.”

A short time later after Spitzer collapsed at the finish line during a cross-county meet, he knew something else was wrong.

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“We went to our family doctor and he said we should go see a cardiologist,” Spitzer said. “It turned out that I had a congenital heart defect.”

Later that year, Spitzer had to have two open-heart surgeries to help with his defect.

“Most people actually don’t even know they have it. Usually the first symptom is sudden death,” he said. “I was very lucky and the fact that we did a test and they found it so that I could have two surgeries and now it’s fixed.”

Spitzer now works to bring awareness to the importance of heart screenings.

“Just finding one defect or saving one person can help an entire community,” he said. “I think everyone should just get tested. I think that’s the best thing they could do because there’s no point in risking it.”

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Michelle Heims, Shawnee Middle/High School principal, said she is proud of Spitzer for what he has been through and what he does to help others.

“I think it’s pretty monumental when you have the opportunity to learn through your experiences, but not just keep that to yourself, share it with others,” she said. “I’m actually really proud of him because it’s not an easy thing that he’s gone through. It’s been really, really difficult and challenging, and yet he looks at it as an opportunity.”

Spitzer and his family also raised about $300 after they made and sold shirts to help reduce the cost of the heart screenings.

The mobile cardiac unit will available from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday at Shawnee High School, 1675 E. Possum Road. The reduced cost will be $40. To schedule a screening, visit to create an account and choose Shawnee High school.

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