While she was in high school, Brittan started to experience shortness of breath during athletics. Her doctor told her that she just needed to eat more salt – and a week later, she experienced Sudden Cardiac Arrest during a high school swim practice.

“Growing up, I was always the fastest one,” says Brittan. “In my junior year of high school, when I was 15, I started to have trouble keeping up with peers when doing short runs.”

She told her mom she thought that she had asthma. Her doctor then referred her to a pulmonologist. Her lung function test looked fine, so she continued to participate in sports.

“One morning, I was out for a run, and when I woke up I was in a stranger’s car because I’d passed out during the run,” she says. “It was very scary to wake up in a stranger’s car – but luckily it was just a nice older couple who’d seen me faint on someone’s lawn.” They drove Brittan home, and she continued to participate in sports.

Her team travelled to Europe to play tennis the same year, and on the way to a match, they were almost hit by a car in a crosswalk. This caused Brittan to lose consciousness again. “My team thought I’d been hit by the car at first,” she says. “I was hospitalized in Sweden.”

After returning to the US, Brittan and her family returned to the doctor – who thought she had a seizure. When her neurological workup came back clear, she continued to play tennis.

Brittan joined the swim team around the time her primary care doctor suggested she should see a cardiologist, due to her ongoing symptoms. On a resting echo and EKG, no issues showed up – and the doctor thought the problem was vasovagal episodes. “She recommended I should eat more salt – like pickle juice and Gatorade,” she says.

Just one week later, Brittan had a Sudden Cardiac Arrest in a swimming pool during swim practice. A teammate pulled her from the bottom of the pool, and she was shocked twice with an AED by her coach. She ended up back in the hospital – under the care of the same cardiologist, who took her out of sports and said she most likely had a heart arrhythmia (SADS) condition.

After travelling to California for a second opinion, Brittan was diagnosed with CPVT based on an exercise stress test, which was confirmed with genetic testing. Brittan says that one of the biggest challenges after diagnosis was conflicting information from doctors over whether she could participate in sports and what her condition was (she was initially diagnosed with LQTS), as well as the delay of over a year for diagnosis despite persistent symptoms.

“My mom was my biggest advocate when I was a teen,” says Brittan. “She connected me with the SADS Foundation and others who’d had similar experiences, and used organizations like SADS to get accurate information about my diagnosis.”

Today, Brittan is thriving in her anesthesiology residency at UC Davis. And she’s still very active despite her diagnosis – she snowboards, plays pickleball, and hikes and mountain bikes.

For those who have recently been diagnosed, Brittan recommends finding a doctor who will listen to you – and advocate for you. “When I got my A-ICD, my doctors made a pocket of pec tissue and were able to have my scar go under my armpit instead of on my chest, since I was only sixteen,” she says. “They sought advice from Dr. Ackerman at the Mayo Clinic when they didn’t have an answer for a question.”