Dana Vollmer is training for the 2012 London Olympics after a gold medal finish at the 2004 Athens games. That triumph came just a year after surgery corrected a heart defect that surfaced when she was 15.
Dana and her mother, Cathy Vollmer, have become passionate volunteers for the American Heart Association. Cathy recently delivered a powerful speech about their experience at the spring San Francisco Go Red For Women Luncheon. She told the audience that she carried an automated external defibrillator (AED) to every swim meet, ready to race to her daughter’s side to administer an electric shock if Dana’s heart should suddenly stop.
Dana excelled at swimming from a young age. But in her early teens, she noticed her heart kept racing long after she had climbed out of the pool. Doctors discovered a condition called Long QT Syndrome, which causes abnormally long rest between heart beats. “I was horrified when I learned more about her condition,” her mother told the luncheon crowd. “I found many stories of teens who died as a result.”
Doctors said that sports were no longer an option for Dana, but she refused to live her life without swimming. After an operation to fix the problem, Dana jumped back into the pool to continue her rigorous training schedule. Cathy kept the AED handy, just in case. It all paid off in Athens, where Dana won a gold medal and set a world record in the 800-meter freestyle relay. She hopes to win her first individual gold medal in London in August.
Dana, who is pictured at a recent Go Red fashion show, is a dedicated volunteer in the San Francisco Bay Area, appearing frequently at American Heart Association events to help others understand that heart disease can strike anyone, at any time. And thanks to research through the years -- procedures, treatments and emergency equipment are available to save lives.