Mass Heartbeat Comes to Nashoba

Establishing a baseline for your heart allows, “you [to] get the full scope of pathology there, compared to a stab in the dark.” 

Mass Heartbeat

Establishing a baseline for your heart allows, “you [to] get the full scope of pathology there, compared to a stab in the dark.” 

Grace Fiori, Chief Editor

Last Thursday, more than thirty Nashoba students participated in heart screenings run by Mass Heartbeat, a local organization based in Hopkinton. Mass Heartbeat provides ECG scans to students in high schools and communities throughout the state. Nashoba students Sabrina Bezzera and Eliza Wachtel, brought Mass Heartbeat to Nashoba as part of their DECA project. They recently won first place at DECA’s district competition and will continue on to the state competition later this month. 

Mass Heartbeat was established in 2018, after a friend of the founders passed away from cardiac arrest in 2010. The Chieftain Press spoke to Patrick Cusanelli, one of the founders who was present at Nashoba last Thursday. Cusanelli explained that Mass Heartbeat works, “…out of Hopkinton, which was where we all went to high school, me and my two partners. We all grew up together.” 

Mass Heartbeat works as a benefit corporation, where companies like Patagonia, Warby Parker, and Ben and Jerry’s contribute a portion of their revenue to the nonprofit that Mass Heartbeat stems from. 

They started on a volunteer basis, and focus on family-patient housing for those with congenital heart disease through the Live4Evan organization. 

When performing ECG scans, they found kids with serious heart conditions who had gone undiagnosed, and they started looking into a way to scale the program and increase the infrastructure available, making it easy to conduct screenings in high schools like Nashoba, as well as colleges and companies throughout the state. 

Mass Heartbeat works with local cardiologists from St. Vincents and are currently in the process of partnering with cardiologists out of UMass Memorial and Mass General Health. Cusanelli hopes that by further expanding the infrastructure available to the organization, they can also further extend their capability to follow up after screenings. 

Participants who sign up for a heart screening through Mass Heartbeat get a baseline tracing, or an ECG tracing. That data is then sent off to a cardiologist where the results are interpreted and returned only a week after the screening. Anyone flagged follows up with their primary doctor for further evaluation. 

Cusanelli explained that the tracing, “not only… [helps] detect undiagnosed conditions but…also [provides] a baseline for every student that has never gotten one.” He noted that ECG screenings for heart health are not a part of a regular physical exam, which every student is required to have in order to participate in athletics. “We compare it to concussion baseline testing; every athlete needs that.” 

The electrocardiogram can pick up a variety of electric irregularities in the heart that stethoscopes, family history, and physicals may not be able to pick up or even be alert for. Cusanelli said, “That is why, in our minds, if you were to couple this quick and easy test with the physical that you need, then you are really getting the whole picture.” Also, by establishing a baseline, you have more information to reference in the future, “you get the full scope of pathology there, compared to a stab in the dark.” 

Through Mass Heartbeat’s partnership with schools like Nashoba, students are able to get a broader perspective about their wellness and further the organization’s goal to provide heart screenings in an affordable and quick manner, to populations not often accounted for in the field of heart health.