Real Michiana: Fighting for heart health through heartbreak
NORTH LIBERTY, Ind. –
Teresa Mago is fighting for heart health after losing her son all too soon. Her son, Zac Mago, was a star athlete at John Glenn High School.
“He was the most goal-driven young man I think anyone has ever met,” said Mago. “Zac had an amazing ability to make everyone a friend.”
Mago describes her son as a protector. He was to everyone’s knowledge a healthy teen.
“He had had a checkup at the school when they did the physicals, and the doctor thought she heard a heart murmur, so we went to the doctor and they did an echo cardiogram and it was fine,” said Mago. “We thought okay, we’re in the clear, this is good we don’t have anything to worry about. That was in 2014. And something changed.”
In July of 2018 Mago lost her son. She says he went to take a nap after taking her mother shopping.
“It was not unusual for him to take a nap, and he just didn’t wake up,” said Mago. “He had no idea, and we had no idea.”
The heartbroken mom went on a search for answers.
“Getting answers and understanding it. That was driving me. I had to understand. I had to know why,” said Mago.
And seven months later, in February of 2019, she found out that it was an enlarged heart and sudden cardiac arrest that caused Zac’s death.
“That’s when everything started to come together very quickly,” said Mago.
She created the Zac Mago Foundation. It is dedicated to making sure no family in her community has to go through the pain she’s feeling.
“Doing heart screenings help not just the kids but the families,” she said. “Even if we catch none, we’ll know. Parents can know their kids are ok.”
“He would have went on to do great things,” Mago said of her son Zac. “Now he’s doing greater things. He’s saving lives.”
Now she’s on a mission to educate others about sudden cardiac arrest.
“I think people are naïve. I was naïve. So I think people are naïve and they don’t know about it and you don’t think it’s going to happen to you,” said Mago.
She’s set a goal of one thousand screenings a year.
“We’d be screening at the same schools,” she said. “It’s not just one screening that you need to do. You need to do two. You need to do a screening two years later. And maybe had we known that, Zac would have been screened in 2016 and we would have noticed that his heart was changing.”
And she hopes to do those screenings within the John Glenn conference.
“We play like 22 games in basketball, it would be a beautiful thing to be able to screen most of the kids at those schools,” said Mago.
She says it’s a bittersweet feeling.
“I don’t have my son, but we’re saving lives,” said Mago.
And after a year of painful firsts, she says holidays are always difficult.
“Every year, birthdays, you know we have Mother’s Day. Those are hard,” she said. “But other moms will wake up and have their child because of Zac. So that is a blessing, and that makes me feel good. And aside from having Gillian and Matthew, that’s a huge reason to celebrate Mother’s Day. Definitely.”
At Mago’s first screening, she screened 62 students. She has another 153 screenings planned for John Glenn High School on May 20-22. There are also multiple fundraising events planned for this year. More information on those can be found here on the foundation’s website.
The company doing the screenings is called mCORE. You can find more information on their website.