Olathe & Southwest Joco

Olathe teen nearly died on the mound. Now, his mom advocates for kids’ heart screening

Coach, bystanders help save Olathe teen who went into cardiac arrest

Brennan Connell, an Olathe teenager, collapsed during a baseball game. His quick-thinking coach ran and found an automatic external defibrillator which shocked his heart back into a normal rhythm.
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Brennan Connell, an Olathe teenager, collapsed during a baseball game. His quick-thinking coach ran and found an automatic external defibrillator which shocked his heart back into a normal rhythm.

It’s only been a few months since Olathe West baseball player Brennan Connell collapsed on the pitcher’s mound during a game on parents’ night at Blue Valley Southwest. Doctors still don’t know what made his heart stop, but Brennan is on his way to a full recovery.

Now his mother, Kristin Connell, wants to make sure other families aren’t surprised by a heart condition. She arranged for a special in-depth heart screening event at Olathe West earlier this month, and more than 65 kids came to be screened.

“Brennan had never been heart-screened, and once this happened and in the process of going through his recovery, I was doing a lot of research and realized this is something that absolutely I wish we had done,” Connell said.

Screenings can detect defects and abnormalities that wouldn’t show up on a routine sports physical. Eric Schroeder, co-owner of Overland Park-based Athletic Testing Solutions, said that they find heart issues in about 10 percent of the 2,500 kids and young adults they screen each year.

The tests look for congenital, genetic or structural heart problems, many of which are treatable if people know they have them. An electrocardiogram measures heart rhythms, and an echocardiogram looks at the heart’s valves and blood flow.

“A lot of times, there are no signs or symptoms that you have a condition. The first symptom is death,” Schroeder said.

A pediatric cardiologist reviews the tests, and families get a report about a week and a half later. Schroeder said that going to a hospital for these tests can cost about $1,500. Families paid $129 per child at the Olathe event.

Sixteen-year-old Grant Findley, a friend of Brennan’s and a fellow baseball player, came to the event with his brother, and they both got screened.

“I just don’t want to go through what he went through,” Grant said.

The screening itself doesn’t take very long.

“This is a very easy thing to protect our kids,” said Nathan Findley, Grant’s dad. “Everyone should take the 15 to 30 minutes out of their day to make sure and get it done.”

Along with the tests, the day also featured training in CPR and automated external defibrillators (AEDs) conducted by the Olathe Fire Department. Medical professionals in the crowd at the baseball game provided CPR and used an AED on Brennan to keep him alive until an ambulance could arrive.

Brennan’s dad, Brian Connell, attributes Brennan’s survival to the fact that the AED was only 80 feet away from the mound when his son collapsed.

“There were lots of little miracles and coincidences… Had he been pitching in another place, (and) they didn’t have AEDS, or they were way far away” things could have turned out very differently, he said.

Brennan now has a subcutaneous implantable defibrillator that monitors his heart and can deliver a shock if necessary. Connell said the support of the Olathe West community has really helped her family as they’ve dealt with Brennan’s recovery.

For now, Brennan just wants to get back to his workouts and back on the field playing soccer, basketball and baseball, she said.

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