Signs of cardiac arrest an 18-year-old athlete ignored

By A. Pawloski – TODAY

18 years old alexander pawson You are already a cardiac arrest survivor.

Before the emergency, his doctors found no problems with his heart, and the teen played football, baseball and wrestling, among other sports.

Little did he and his family know that there was a genetic disorder called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy It was changing the structure of his heart, forcing him to work harder when he was exercising. When a crisis hits suddenly, there is little time to react.

“About 10 seconds later, I lost consciousness completely,” Alexander, from Wales, Michigan, told

In December 2022, Alexander Bowerson suffered a cardiac arrest and spent six days in the hospital.Courtesy of Alexander Pawson

After Bronny James, the 18-year-old son of NBA star LeBron James, went into cardiac arrest in July, doctors said hypertrophic cardiomyopathy was the leading cause of cardiac arrest in young athletes. (James’ family has not shared publicly what stopped his heart.)

“When you hear a child passed out and having a seizure, that’s the first thing you think of,” explains Dr. Silvestre Duran, medical director of pediatric cardiology at Corewell Health in Royal Oak, Mich. . He had not treated Alexander, but he was familiar with his condition.

“Usually cardiac arrest is caused by exertion: the heart is working hard, but it’s not working properly.”

(A mother saves her 17-year-old daughter from cardiac arrest during a cheerleading competition)

But parents should know that cardiac arrest is rare in children, teens, and young adults in their 20s, and rates aren’t increasing in this age group, Dr. Silvestre Duran said.

Signs You Think Are ‘Normal’ and Ignore

Alexander has suffered from chest pains and occasional heart palpitations since high school, but he said he didn’t care about it and didn’t mention it to his parents.

“I just thought it was normal, everybody has it,” she recalls.

He also passed out twice during football games. Went into the locker room once before the game, but no one noticed, so he continued playing, feeling fine anyway, and blamed the incident on fatigue.

Passing out for the second time, the teen stood up as he fell on top of a teammate, but again he didn’t think it through.

On December 15, 2022, everything changed.

Alexander had just started wrestling practice at Memphis Junior/High School and was jogging for a few minutes when he felt a sharp pain in his chest.

“It was much worse than usual,” he recalls. “When I get chest pains, I think, ‘Maybe this isn’t normal.'”

Too weak to stand up, the teen said he fell to his knees and tried to put his hands on his chest to indicate his heart, but after about five seconds he couldn’t move and passed out.

alexander told He sensed the presence of two angels and had a feeling that “everything will be alright”he remembers. “All of a sudden, I felt like I turned around and I was back on the high school floor.”

When she lost consciousness, the school’s cheerleading coach, also a registered nurse, rushed to give her cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), then used an automated external defibrillator to restore her heart to a normal rhythm. Alexander said she saved his life.

(The sisters hear the heartbeat of their dead father again)

What is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy?

The genetic disorder occurs when abnormal genes cause the heart muscle to become thicker than normal, which reduces blood flow to and from the heart, according to the American Heart Association. It is estimated that one in every 500 people suffers from this condition.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine warns that many young people’s first symptom is a sudden breakdown and possible death.

Others, like Alexander, experience warning signs such as chest pains with exertion, shortness of breath out of proportion to exercise, or fainting.

“Sometimes teens ignore them,” says Dr. Duran. “But if you’re an athlete, especially … you have to keep that in mind.”

The heart can start normally, but the condition can progress and worsen over time, he added.

“Now I want to be a cardiologist”

After waking up, Alexander spent six days in the hospital. Tests including an echocardiogram and an MRI confirmed he had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

An implantable defibrillator was placed under his skin to monitor his heartbeat and shock him if he lost his normal rhythm again.

Alexander is feeling fine, but he can no longer wrestle, play contact sports or lift weights. These limits are designed to protect your heart and implanted defibrillator.

Alexander, who graduated high school in May, switched majors after the ordeal. He had planned to become a pilot, but due to his heart condition, that was no longer an option.

This fall, he will be a freshman at the University of Michigan, planning to major in biomedical engineering, a degree that precedes medicine.

“Now I want to be a cardiologist and help people who have gone through what I’ve been through,” he said.

What parents need to know:

Dr. Silvestre Duran’s Health System offers the Beaumont Student Cardiac Exam, which is designed to detect abnormalities in heart structure or rhythm in adolescents ages 13 to 18. Such procedures could help detect hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, he noted.

But experts stress that the American Heart Association does not recommend specific cardiac tests for all pediatric patients.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that primary care physicians ask each child four questions to screen for possible heart problems. These include:

  1. Have you ever fainted, passed out, or had an unexplained seizure without warning, especially during exercise or in response to sudden loud noises such as doorbells, alarm clocks, and phones ringing?
  2. Have you ever had exercise-related chest pain or shortness of breath?
  3. Has anyone in your immediate or other distant relatives died of a heart attack or sudden accident before the age of 50?
  4. Anyone in your family with hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy, Marfan syndrome, arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, long QT syndrome, short QT syndrome, BrS, or CPTV, or if you are 50 years of age Who has an implanted pacemaker or defibrillator?

If any problems arise during the evaluation, the child is usually referred to a cardiologist, the expert added.

If you would like to read the original English version of this note, see here.

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