HCM- Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
I knew I was different when I was little. Other kids could run really fast while we played tag, I always seemed to be the slowest and I never knew why. My parents always told me that I just wasn’t a runner, but I still hated that I was always tagged first. My parents noticed my depression so they decided to start me in swim. I started swimming when I was 8 and quickly became one of the fastest kids in the pool. I loved to play tag in the pool with my friends because I was never the kid who was tagged first. I continued swimming and getting more competitive, I was at a meet just about every weekend and winning gold became a normal thing. Everything seemed to be going well, when I was 11 coaches were already speaking about the Olympics for me in a few years. This all changed when I was 12 and suffered my first heart attack.
I was swimming the 400 IM at my fastest pace yet. I was in the middle of the pool when I suddenly stopped swimming. Lifeguards immediately dragged me out of the pool and started giving me CPR. An AED was hooked up to my chest and it brought me back. I was dead for 3 minutes. I spent the night in the hospital where doctors performed many tests. I was released the next morning with being diagnosed with server dehydration. My mother was angry; saying that a 12-year-old girl doesn’t drop dead from dehydration, but doctors were for sure that there was nothing wrong with me. I went back to swimming the following week with the reminder to drink plenty of water.
5 months later, my heart stopped again. This time I was swimming a pure sprint during the 500 freestyle. Like the last time, I stopped swimming in the middle of the pool and lifeguards had to drag me out. Again, CPR was performed and an AED was hooked up to my chest and brought me back after 5 minutes of being dead. I spent the night in the same hospital as last time and they performed many tests on me. Again, they released me the next morning saying I might possibly have high blood pressure. My mother and father this time were both angry at the hospital although the doctors assured them that this wasn’t going to happen again. But it did.
The item that saved my life..... 3 times
3 months after the second incident, my heart stopped when I got out of the pool after my winning leg of a relay. My team quickly surrounded me and screamed for help. Lifeguards quickly rushed over and started CPR and hooking me up to the AED. I was dead for 7 minutes, the AED delivered 5 rounds of shock to me, and EMT’s seemed doubtful that I would come back. I came back after 7 minutes of darkness and was immediately rushed to a different hospital than the one I had gone to before. After 24 hours of extreme tests, I had an answer. I have Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, HCM.
HCM- What is it?
HCM, is heart defect in which one wall of the heart is much thicker than the other. This defect makes it more difficult for blood to be pumped through the heart, especially when the pulse is raised during exercise. I noticed the fatigue from it when I was little and I wasn’t good at running. Swimming, for some reason, didn’t give away any symptoms such as fatigue, chest pain, fainting, and lightheadedness. The only symptom I showed was my sudden cardiac arrests. Genes is responsible for the development of HCM. One of my parents must have had the defect also but they died when I was 2. The previous doctors I saw, never thought I could have this defect since neither of my parents had it, they didn’t bother to see that I was adopted. HCM does not have a proven cure. Beta-blockers are prescribed to slow down the heart to prevent cardiac arrest. A heart transplant can be possible depending on the person’s health, but that could take years of being on the UNOS list. Many experimental treatments are being used, but none seem to work or have too many side effects.
My future. My hope.
Life has been difficult since I was diagnosed with HCM. I’m on medicine that makes my heart rate stay below 150 BPM at all times. My condition will worsen as I get older and someday I will probably need a transplant. Only 0.5% of the population suffers from this defect, but a cure needs to be found. Since it’s a genetic defect, it can be passed to the person’s offspring. I hope that someday I’ll be able to go for a run and not have to worry about my heart. I hope that my future kids won’t have to go through the pain that I have. I hope for a cure.