This teenage girl's story is proof that you're never too young for a heart screening.

In fall 2016, Kyli Penner was focused on school, standardized tests, her friends, and her dance team.

All photos courtesy of Kyli Penner, used with permission.

In the fall of 2016, her mom signed her up for a free heart screening through a local program called Play for Patrick.


“It was Halloween,” Kyli remembers. “I had a party that night, and I didn’t really want to take time out of my day to go do it. I didn’t think it was necessary.

But Kyli’s mom was insistent — and it's a good thing she was. The screening would ultimately end up saving Kyli’s life.

Though she was just 15, Kyli had an atrial septal defect — basically, a hole in her heart.

At the Play for Patric screening, doctors discovered Kyli's heart was allowing oxygenated and deoxygenated blood to mix. If allowed to continue, it could become life-threatening. She would need surgery to close up the hole in her heart.

Thankfully, Kyli's condition was minor enough that it could be handled with a minimally invasive surgery. Doctors placed a small metal covering over the defect, and within weeks, Kyli was back to life as usual — dance team and all.

Though the process of finding and treating her condition was scary, Kyli is hugely grateful that she found out about it when she did.

“It’s crazy,” she says. “I didn’t want to go, and then going to this one thing that my mom dragged me to not only changed, but saved my life.”

Sometimes it can seem less overwhelming to ignore problems rather than face them — but for Kyli, getting her surgery when she did may have saved her life. “You don’t just plan to have heart surgery,” she says. “But it’s better to figure that out earlier and to do something about it.”

That's the exactly the point of Play for Patrick, which is the organization that provided the free screening drive that Kyli attended. Patrick Schoonover was 14 when he passed away suddenly from an undetected heart condition. Though his parents couldn't save him, they've dedicated their lives to making sure kids in the area, like Kyli, stay heart-healthy through preventive check-ups.

Now, Kyli's perspective has changed — she's all about preventive health care, and she's spreading her philosophy to her friends and family.

"It kinda gave me a 'why not?' philosophy," she says. "The hour I took out of my day ... was so worth adding years onto my life." Even her friends have adopted her mindset, inspired by Kyli to encourage their own families to get regular check-ups.

Ultimately, Kyli hopes her story moves more than just her own community to get the health care they need to prevent an emergency. "None of us likes to go to doctors' appointments," she says. "But we have to get out of that mindset and jump on opportunities for our health right now."

It can be a struggle to prioritize preventive health care, but Kyli's story shows that no one is above getting regular checks.

It can be easy to assume that if you're young or if you feel healthy, you don't need preventive care.

“As kids or as teenagers, we don’t really think that far ahead. We like to think in the now: what we have for homework, whether we’ll make a varsity sport or something,” Kyli says. “We think health issues are things we have to deal with as we age, but it’s not at all true.”

Kyli's story proves that, no matter how young or athletic someone is, everyone should prioritize preventive health care. It could end up saving your life.

Family
True
Cigna 2017
Courtesy of Houseplant.

In America, one dumb mistake can hang over your head forever.

Nearly 30% of the American adult population — about 70 million people — have at least one criminal conviction that can prevent them from being treated equally when it comes to everything from job and housing opportunities to child custody.

Twenty million of these Americans have felony convictions that can destroy their chances of making a comfortable living and prevents them from voting out the lawmakers who imprisoned them.

Many of these convictions are drug-related and stem from the War on Drugs that began in the U.S. '80s. This war has unfairly targeted the minority community, especially African-Americans.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

Climate change is happening because the earth is warming at an accelerated rate, a significant portion of that acceleration is due to human activity, and not taking measures to mitigate it will have disastrous consequences for life as we know it.

In other words: Earth is heating up, it's kinda our fault, and if we don't fix it, we're screwed.

This is the consensus of the vast majority of the world's scientists who study such things for a living. Case closed. End of story.

How do we know this to be true? Because pretty much every reputable scientific organization on the planet has examined and endorsed these conclusions. Thousands of climate studies have been done, and multiple peer-reviewed studies have been done on those studies, showing that somewhere between 84 and 97 percent of active climate science experts support these conclusions. In fact, the majority of those studies put the consensus well above 90%.

Keep Reading Show less
Nature
via James Anderson

Two years ago, a tweet featuring the invoice for a fixed boiler went viral because the customer, a 91-year-old woman with leukemia, received the services for free.

"No charge for this lady under any circumstances," the invoice read. "We will be available 24 hours to help her and keep her as comfortable as possible."

The repair was done by James Anderson, 52, a father-of-five from Burnley, England. "James is an absolute star, it was overwhelming to see that it cost nothing," the woman's daughter told CNN.

Keep Reading Show less
Heroes

I live in a family with various food intolerances. Thankfully, none of them are super serious, but we are familiar with the challenges of finding alternatives to certain foods, constantly checking labels, and asking restaurants about their ingredients.

In our family, if someone accidentally eats something they shouldn't, it's mainly a bit of inconvenient discomfort. For those with truly life-threatening food allergies, the stakes are much higher.

I can't imagine the ongoing stress of deadly allergy, especially for parents trying to keep their little ones safe.

Keep Reading Show less
popular