It seems as if everywhere I travel these days I am asked about the tragic death of Lance Lennen, 19, Snow Lake, who died while ice fishing out on the lake last week. (He did not drown or go through the ice.)

No one should be snatched from this earth at such a young age.

Because I live on Snow Lake, people assume that I might have known Lance. I did not, but had I grown up on Snow Lake as did he, I probably would have been one of those young people who you can never convince that it’s time to come indoors. I have had a few neighbor boys (they’re all men now) who were like that.

Chad was always fishing. Jake, Joe and Jack were always skiing, and often when they return to the lake these days, they toss their bags in the house and head for the lake to hit the water with either their bare feet, a wake board or a slalom ski. Chad’s a family man, but you can always find him out on the deck, talking with his dad, Jeff, watching that beautiful lake.

In my home, we have thought long and hard over Lance, even though we don’t know him (I do recognize him from his photo, though). I would assume many people in our community have prayed much for Lance and the many family members and friends he leaves behind. It is agonizing.

Few of us know what happened to Lance last Monday, his last day on earth, his last day on our beloved Snow Lake. But it got Erika and me thinking, and we thought we should share some information, some things to ponder.

Our guy, Rollie, is always outside, too. He likes to swim and dig around in his garden (some days I think he’s going to make it to China).

Like a lot of parents, we let Rollie go, as long as he’s wearing his life jacket. That’s a rule at our house. So, if you come over and have children, we most likely have a life jacket their size, and they have to wear it, even in the yard. No exceptions.

We also have to keep an eye on Rollie because of a condition called Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, which is a birth defect of the heart. This syndrome is a malfunctioning of the electrical pathways between the upper and lower chambers of the heart. The electrical signals can ricochet, producing an overly fast heart rate.

If we don’t take action right away, he could be gone. Our little light would be turned off forever.

We learned about Rollie’s condition at a routine medical exam when a doctor discovered Rollie had a heart murmur. This led us to get further testing and the eventual WPW diagnosis.

So, what does this mean? No. 1, we have learned a lot about childhood heart issues. More importantly, No. 2, we have to be on alert with Rollie for shortness of breath, light-headedness or faint conditions. Though Rollie hasn’t had any issues, and may never — like any 9-year-old, he goes 90 mph from morning to night — if these conditions were present, we would have to seek immediate medical condition.

Had it not been for testing for other issues, we might never have learned about Rollie’s WPW. And he gets regular EKGs to make sure everything’s OK. (He did so last week and all is well.) Someday he might have to have surgery. Who knows?

How often do we learn about young people who are taken from this life early because of a heart condition that went undetected? This happens all the time. And many times there’s nothing you can do.

If you ever research childhood heart conditions, it is almost dizzying the conditions and syndromes, etc., that are out there. Some are easily detectable, many are not.

The night of Rollie’s latest visit to the cardiologist, Erika and I talked about how we need to share his story. And we would hope others might take the extra step of getting an EKG of their active children.

Again, we may never know what took Lance Lennen from us. But our continuing thoughts of Lance, who had so much in front of him, made us want to share our story about Rollie.

michael marturello is editor of the The Herald Republican. He can be reached at

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