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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

Every parent's nightmare -- your child has a heart condition



mom_depression.jpgThis is one of those things that as a parent, you don’t really talk about until you’re safely on the other side.

You become superstitious despite all of your recently acquired scientific knowledge and sometimes find yourself knocking on wood despite knowing full well that it won’t really help your 14 year-old son’s heart condition.

He’s healthy, active -- on every sports team at school. There are no cardiac issues in our family. He passed his physical in the fall with flying colors, and has rarely seen the doctor with the exception of a rogue sinus infection or a broken bone. So when he complained one night before Christmas that his heart was racing for no apparent reason, we took notice.

We took him to the ER that night, and by the time he was seen, his pulse was still elevated, but certainly not dangerous. They took an EKG and saw “something” that we should follow up with our pediatrician.

By New Year’s, he was under the care of a pediatric cardiologist and was fitted with a heart monitor.  By Valentine’s Day he was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, a problem in the electrical system of the heart that creates extra pathways for an impulse.

Sometimes there are symptoms like palpitations, but other times, there are not. It can’t be heard through a stethoscope, and often people are unaware of this condition until its very distinct pattern shows up on an EKG. Depending on where the problem is located in the heart, it can be benign or it can be fatal.

In March, he had a procedure that “burned away” that extra pathway. As it turned out, he had more than one, and it was the deadly variety. Dodged a bullet? We dodged a canon ball.

WPW is not necessarily common, but as word of his condition gotten around, I heard of a dozen of other cases in my circle of friends that knew of healthy, active teens diagnosed with this condition.

This isn’t about having everyone run out and have their children checked for WPW, although if Hillsborough County is still considering EKG screenings in school,  I’m all for it because it absolutely will save young lives.

What it is about is reminding parents that we already have the most important tool in our arsenal as parents against WPW or any health concern.


Make sure your children feel comfortable enough to tell you if they don’t feel well, even if they don’t exactly know what that is. If something doesn’t seem right, see a doctor. I’ve learned this lesson firsthand a couple of times and I honestly believe that no one knows your child better than you do, and you are their biggest advocate.

This isn’t to suggest that every sniffle requires a trip to the doctor’s office, but I do think it warrants an ongoing conversation with your children about trusting their instincts and being aware of their bodies and general health.

It certainly is more effective than knocking on wood. And it and can save their life.

~ Tracey Henry, the Suburban Diva

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[Last modified: Wednesday, August 25, 2010 9:47am]


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