From Collegiate Athlete to Cardiac Arrest Survivor
Rewind about 12 years where I played on a competitive club team and won 3 regional championships at Santa Margarita Catholic High School in southern California.
I continued my soccer career at Ohio State, and was fortunate to start every game of my 4-year college career. As a freshman I was grateful to lead the team in goals while winning a Big Ten Championship. After being a team captain and 3-time All-Big Ten selection, I wanted to pursue other passions in the field of nutrition and integrative medicine where I am today, focused on preventing chronic disease through lifestyle interventions.
I share this with you because no matter how healthy we may appear, sudden cardiac arrest can strike anyone at any age.
JANUARY 17, 2018
The Day My Life Changed Forever
I went running with my friend Ana to train for an upcoming Spartan Race. About 5 minutes into our run, I told her my chest felt tight and just like that, I collapsed to the street without warning. No signs, no symptoms, no anything. My heart stopped and I went into sudden cardiac arrest.
Just like that, in a flash, my life was almost over.
She immediately called 911 and about a minute later, a good Samaritan (Erick) driving by pulled over to help a stranger and start CPR. The firefighters arrived about 4 minutes after the 911 call, reviving me after the second attempt with the AED (defibrillator). I was rushed to the hospital where my body rejected sedation and any IVs, so they were forced to put me into a medically induced coma for over 24 hours.
I was diagnosed with a genetic heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is prevalent in young athletes and one of the leading causes of death for people under 30. A thickened left heart ventricle, and something that is extremely dangerous because there are no signs or symptoms until it’s too late. I never experienced any issues my entire soccer career, and I never had my heart screened when I played at Ohio State.
Currently there is no known treatment or cure. I was told I need to have a defibrillator installed in my chest to prevent any future events. I will most likely need an ICD for the rest of my life and have surgery every 6-8 years to install a new device. A week later I had a subcutaneous ICD installed under my left arm with a wire attached to my heart. Throughout this process, I have definitely learned a lot and had much time to reflect.
PERSPECTIVE IS EVERYTHING
The Story We Tell Ourselves is the Life We Live
I’ve learned we can’t control how much time we have here on Earth, so I want to focus on doing things that make me happy and those around me. I am part of the 10% of people who survive cardiac arrest, and I am so grateful. I want to encourage all of us to start living the life we want. I’ve decided to look at the positives in everything. It may sound weird, but this is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.
It’s allowed me to wake up, allowed me to choose happiness, allowed me to live in the present. The positive news is I have a cool story to share, chicks dig scars, and I never need to walk through a metal detector again. Stop putting off goals and ambitions in life because “we will eventually get to them.” I told myself for years I wanted to learn how to dance, yet always made excuses and said “I’ll get to it someday.”
I share my story to encourage you to live the life you want. And to spread awareness about silent heart diseases that are more common than we think. Even for those who seem completely healthy. These undetected heart conditions can happen to anyone. Take preventative measures by having your heart screened, especially for children. There is a charity in San Diego called EP Save a Life who do amazing work and offer free heart screenings for kids 12-25. I encourage everyone to get checked because I was always the person who thought it would never be me.
I hope my story inspires you to find gratitude in everything and love harder than you've ever loved before, because perspective is everything.