Dad pushing to pass lifesaving law in his son's honor

One of the first bills filed in Austin this legislative session is in memory of a Houston-area teenager who died of sudden cardiac arrest. The bill is designed to detect unknown heart conditions in student athletes. It would be the first of its kind in the country.

This proposed bill comes after 18-year-old Cody Stephens fell asleep in his dad’s recliner and never woke up. Turns out, a $20 test may have detected Cody's heart condition. So his dad wants a law passed requiring student athletes to have a potentially lifesaving heart scan.       

“Athletes are three times more likely to die from sudden cardiac arrest. They work their heart.  It’s a muscle,” explains Cody’s dad Scott Stephens who knows, all too well, what can happen when an enlarged heart goes undetected in a kid who plays sports.  “Cody, my son that died in 2012, basically got the same physical I got in 1978.”

Stephens' 6'9", 320-pound baby boy Cody was headed to college on a football scholarship, but he died three weeks shy of high school graduation. Stephens has since learned student athletes who receive an ECG are more likely to survive an undiscovered heart condition like Cody's. He's is pushing for life-saving legislation to be passed.  “It would be a requirement to enhance sports physicals by adding an ECG twice in a high school athletes career."

House Bill 76 -- 76 was Cody's football jersey number -- is the first bill filed by state Representative Dan Huberty this legislative session.  “This is one of those bills I’ve had a hard time getting passed.  I want my colleagues to understand how important this is to me to get this piece of legislation passed,” explains Representative Huberty.

This will be Stephens fifth try at getting a bill passed.  His first was in 2013.  “I just went over there with a bill I had written myself and said 'hey listen to me.  We can save lives,'” says Stephens, and a state representative by the name of Sylvester Turner did listen and sponsored the bill.  Every year since it failed to pass, Representative Huberty has filed the bill.

“Having two sons of my own that played sports, making sure they get checked is important.  I just think it’s something we ought to be doing.  It could save lives,” says Huberty.  

Stephens will spend the next few weeks hoping to convince lawmakers to vote for HB76.  “I will have red knuckles and sore legs from running up and down the steps of the Capitol and knocking on doors.”

He hopes you will help as well by contacting your state representative and senator to tell them you support HB76.  “We’re excited to have the opportunity to get this passed in Texas, which will be the first state to ever do this. Texas will do this and the nation will follow.”

Stephens started the Cody Stephens Go Big or Go Home Foundation and has screened the hearts of 100,000 student athletes across Texas for free.  Eighty-five of those kids were suffering unknown heart conditions and had to have lifesaving surgery.  Stephens also recalls one student who was diagnosed with a heart ailment that is likely hereditary, so his family was also screened back when the test was $15 instead of $20.  “From that one $15 ECG, we found six family members that had to have some kind of help with their heart,” Stephens explains. 

Under the proposed bill, parents can opt out of getting their kids an ECG for any reason.