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Free heart screening leads to life-saving surgery

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DENHAM SPRINGS - A free heart screening at Denham Springs High School led to a life-saving surgery for one student.

As a junior, Sam Hughes was your typical student-athlete. He played football and baseball. Last spring, as a part of his physical, Hughes decided to take advantage of a free echocardiogram being offered at the school by the Louisiana Pediatric Cardiology Foundation.

"I went in not really expecting anything to happen and nothing did for a few months," says Hughes.

But what he found out next came as a complete shock for the seemingly healthy, then 17-year-old.

"I was like this has got to be somebody else, you've got to have the wrong person," recalls Hughes.

The echo showed that Hughes had a large atrial septic defect.

"ASD, which is basically a hole in the top chamber of my heart," he said.

Hughes continued to play baseball into his senior year, because he was in no immediate danger. However, doctor's say when he reached his 30's and 40's he would've suffered severe heart problems.

After multiple tests and one failed attempt to patch the hole in his heart, Hughes ended up at Texas Children's Hospital.

"It was weird," says Hughes. "I did not know what to expect at all. I didn't know if I would bounce back immediately or be bed ridden for three weeks."

On July 3rd, Hughes made two weeks post-op and is feeling great. He's not allowed to do any heavy lifting, and worse he can't swim in his pool for another few weeks while his incisions heal.

However, this is more than just a story of a random choice to get a free screening.

"The really cool story is my grandmother, at Our Lady of the Lake, had cancer a few years back. And the nurse that took really good care of my grandmother, Ms. Tonya Maher, took care of her," says Hughes.

Years later, that same woman would become the school nurse at Denham Springs High School, with the help of Hughes's grandfather.

"She's the one that pushed to have these echocardiograms at the school So it's really neat how it circled back and she kind of wound up saving me." Hughes will start Mississippi College in the fall.

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