I was born with a heart condition called Supraventricular Tachycardia, known as SVT for short. SVT consists of having an extra pathway in the heart. At times the pathway opens and causes the electrical currents in the heart to pass through it. Due to this change of pathways taken by the electrical currents, the heart proceeds to beat at a fast rate. When this occurs it is referred to as an episode. An episode can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours and can occur once a year to multiple times a week. During an episode, a person’s pulse can reach as high as 300, which is a rate that can begin to cause damage to the heart. There are a few symptoms that may coincide with the episodes, for example, sweating. SVT is a congenital heart condition, but often a person with SVT does not know one has it because symptoms and episodes do not begin until around the teenage years.
I began to have episodes when I was in the eighth grade, but I did not know what they were. I would complain to my parents about chest pains and discomfort in general, so they took me to my primary care physician a couple of times. My doctor would then proceed to do an EKG, which would print out a reading of my heart’s activity. My doctor never found any irregularities because my episodes always ended before the EKG began; therefore, my condition was not diagnosed. A few years had passed with continuing episodes, but I said nothing due to my past history of misleading EKGs and the incredibly hard task of describing my episodes. Finally, during the fall of my junior year of high school, I had had enough.
In the fall during my field hockey season, I continued having episodes. It was tremendously difficult to be running on a field and trying to participate in team logic while having an episode. I approached my parents about my symptoms once again, hoping that someone could diagnose my symptoms. I returned to my primary care physician but spoke with another doctor in the office. This time I got a few suggestions for what could be the cause of my problems. The doctor said I could be having a reaction to caffeine because caffeine can cause the heart to beat fast and he also said I might have a heart condition. I was advised to not intake any caffeine, and I was also issued a heart card monitor. The doctor wanted to see if my symptoms would disappear if I didn’t ingest any caffeine. If I did experience symptoms he wanted me to put the heart card on my chest above my heart to see what my heart beats looked like during this time. From a heart reading during an episode, the doctor would be able to tell if I had a heart condition or not.
The first allotted time I had the heart card there were no episodes to capture. Unfortunately, after I returned the heart monitor my episodes started occurring very frequently. My doctor told me to go to the emergency room to get an EKG done if I had any more episodes before I got a new heart card. There were a few times I had to rush to the hospital in the middle of my field hockey games and school, but there was no luck capturing an episode. After struggling for a few months, I finally captured an episode with the heart card and sure enough, I had SVT. My doctor referred me to one of the leading cardiologists in Connecticut where I lived. After I met with my doctor and talked with my family, I opted to have surgery because I had episodes very frequently and they sometimes lasted for hours. Needless to say, they were affecting my life a great deal between field hockey, school, work, and home life. In March of my junior year, I had surgery to close the extra pathway. The pathway was on the left side of my heart; therefore, I had to stay in the hospital overnight because excess bleeding might occur where the surgeons used catheters for the procedure.
The following fall of my senior year of high school I was approached by the New Haven Register, The Hartford Courant, and ESPN 2 about doing pieces on me. They wanted to show how a strong athlete endured a heart condition and persevered. I agreed to speak with all of them during my field hockey season where they interviewed and took photos of me during my games. After all the interviews had been released I received many phone calls and messages from mothers and other teenagers asking to speak with me. From conversing with all these people, I discovered how many others had heart conditions. Many of them contacted me because they had the same or similar heart conditions and wanted to ask my opinion on surgery and anything else they could think of. I was glad to speak with and help as many people as I could. As a result, I knew this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life: to help others and reach out. I established Lily’s Kids Inc.: A Non-profit Organization for Children to fulfill those goals.
I hope you will join us in our mission to better the lives of children.
Lily Gagliardi DaCruz, Founder & C.E.O. of Lily’s Kids Inc.