It started with an innocent bear hug from a friend when Sadie was 4. Her heart raced to 320 beats-a-minute, then stopped completely. She collapsed. It was the first of what Children's Hospital cardiologist Kishor Avasarala, MD, calls "mini-deaths."
It happened again when Sadie got scared, or bent to tie a shoelace, or stood in line in the cafeteria. Her mom, Jaime, was afraid to let her out of sight. She and Sadie became inseparable, even at school. Sadie's activities were restricted; even recess wasn't fun.
At first, doctors were puzzled; Sadie's heart didn't show any structural disease. In 2003, they implanted a loop recorder into Sadie's heart muscle. The loop recorder, a relatively new device, acts much like a black box in an airplane, recording all the heart's data during an episode.
Doctors soon had a diagnosis: catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular fibrillation, a rare (in children) heart condition that causes mini-heart attacks, and, sometimes, death.
Dr. Avasarala immediately placed Sadie on a beta blocker - medication that reduces the heart's workload and lowers blood pressure - and implanted a defibrillator. The beta blocker reduces the likelihood of incidents and the defibrillator gives Sadie's heart an electric jolt if one occurs.
In the year and a half since the surgery, Sadie had only one incident. The defibrillator stopped it in seconds. Sadie calls it the "guardian angel" inside of her.
Today, Sadie, 9, is back to being an active, agile kid. Recess is a ball! And mom is free to go about her own business.