On November 1, 1997 my life changed forever. At the age of thirteen I was playing a routine soccer game and began to feel uncomfortable. I came off the field and told my Dad that I wasn't feeling right. I had him put his hand on my chest because my heart seemed to continue to race at a fast rate, even at times I wasn't running. He told me to sit out the rest of the game. Once the game ended, as my Dad and I were walking back to the car, I got sick to my stomach and the last thing I remember was trying to buckle my seatbelt. I had lost consciousness and my Dad had to perform CPR as 911 was called.
Thankfully because my Dad knew and performed CPR, I regained consciousness as I was taken to the nearest emergency room, where my Mom and sister met us there. It was clear that something was terribly wrong, as my heart was beating at 330 beats per minute. I remember turning to my Mom, who is a nurse, and asking why my heart rate wouldn't slow down. With no prior history of heart problems, neither she nor the physicians could explain why my heart wasn't responding to any of the medications.
A cardiologist arrived on scene and made the decision to shock my heart. My Dad, Mom, and sister were all upset because they knew that if my heart didn't respond to the shock my chances of survival were not good. Thankfully my heart returned to a normal rate after the shock.
For the next week, my life was consumed by tests and studies to find out what was wrong. It was determined that I have heart disease called right ventricular dysplasia. Unfortunately for me, there is no cure, but there is treatment. I have a device in my abdomen called an Automatic Internal Cardiac Defibrillator. This monitors my heart and will electronically shock it when I sustain a high heart rate. I have been saved four times by this device.
Now at twenty-three years old, I have been implanted with my third device. Living with heart disease is not easy, because at any moment my heart rate could jump from 60 beats per minute to 300 beats per minute. I didn't have a choice in getting heart disease, but as scary as that is I have made the commitment to live a successful and healthy life. I am so grateful for the medical advances and cardiovascular research funded by the American Heart Association, which has contributed to why I am here today.