The first time I fainted, I was a freshman in
high school. I got up early to go pack boxes in the food kitchen, and I hadn’t
eaten breakfast, and all of the sudden the world went black. I came to right
away – everyone thought I was just hypoglycemic, so I didn’t go to the doctor.
I almost fainted again that year while I was training with my basketball team –
my lips got all grey, and I had to go home and rest. We thought I was just
I also fainted a few times in college – once when I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and woke up on the floor. Another time, the burglar alarm accidently went off, and I jumped up to plug in the code to turn it off, and I fainted. My friends called an ambulance, who thought it was probably drug or alcohol related, since I was a college student – and I kept telling them no, that’s definitely not it. My mom got concerned, so I went to the University of Michigan hospital and got a tip table test – they said I had vasovagal episodes and needed to drink lots of water and salt my food.
Since I’d done my due diligence, and gone to a cardiologist, I thought I was fine. I had a few more fainting incidents – for example, in law school, a professor in a very stressful class called me on and I passed out. And when I’d just started work, I got up during a meeting so get some fruit, and passed out and they called the ambulance. They said the same thing as before – calm down, get rest, and drink water.
I got pregnant, and had a total normal pregnancy – with no heart issues and a healthy birth. My daughter had a great early childhood – no health issues at all. One day, I was driving home from work with her in the backseat – she was about eight months old. I was right in front of Georgetown Hospital when the light turned green, and a car turned left in front of me. I slammed on my brakes, and I remember thinking, I never want to get in a crash with my daughter in the car. And then everything went black.
When I passed out, I crashed into cars on the side of the road, but by some miracle, I didn’t hit anyone – and both me and my daughter were fine. And I’d literally crashed right in front of the hospital. They still made me get into an ambulance to go into the building, and I came to right away. They did an EKG this time, and the ER doctor looked at it and said, I think you have a prolonged QT and you need to see my friend, Dr. Eldadah, who’s an electrophysiologist.
Dr. Eldadah diagnosed me with Long QT Syndrome, and I was so scared, because I thought I was going to drop dead, and I was a single mom and needed to be around for my daughter. He wanted to put in an ICD, and I said that I wanted it as soon as possible. I had it implanted, and it was very routine, not at all a traumatic experience. He also referred me to Dr. Charles Berul at Children’s National Hospital for my daughter.
Dr. Berul did genetic testing, which took a while to come back. And I was just hoping that she didn’t have it. Right after her first birthday, he called and said she had Long QT too – and I started crying. Dr. Berul said, you know, Sarah, she is she same child she was when she woke up this morning – nothing’s changed. She’s going to be fine and we’re going to get her treated.
It was hard for a lot of reasons – including that I’d never dealt with a serious health issue before, and certainly not for my daughter. But the great thing about Children’s National Hospital is that they move fast. They got my daughter in right away to start beta blockers and have an observation. She’s tolerated the beta blockers, and she’s had a few incidents, so she has a link monitor as well.
She’s a totally normal kid now. I can go down the rabbit hole and really freak myself out sometimes, but I try not to – we’ve been really lucky. If you’ve just been diagnosed, or your child’s just been diagnosed, know that knowledge is power – you’re so lucky to have a diagnosis, and you can have a perfectly normal life. It’s serious, but also so treatable. Find a good practitioner that you trust, do what they say, and try not to worry too much about the future, because treatments are improving all the time.