On August 10th, 2006 I experienced an episode of severe chest pain and difficulty breathing while running during a high school soccer captain's practice; I was 17 years old at the time. I was transported by ambulance to a local hospital and over the next day and a half, I underwent numerous heart tests, including an EKG, ECHO, and an exercise stress test. The results of these tests did not reveal any abnormality with my heart and I felt confident that the doctors had checked me quite thoroughly. I regained confidence and tried my best to put the incident behind me.
Fast forward two years later and I experienced another episode on August 20th, 2008, but this one was much more serious. I collapsed on the soccer field during a pre-season scrimmage at Augsburg College. I regained consciousness after a couple minutes and was immediately transported to North Memorial Hospital. Over the next few days, I went through more heart tests and was seen by a cardiologist who referred me to the Minneapolis Heart Institute (as I was now an adult). After having a CT angiogram, a fairly new diagnostic technology, the doctors were able to identify the problem. I was diagnosed with an anomalous left main coronary artery. Although this was a rare congenital heart defect, it is the second most common cause of death in young athletes. It is also quite rare to survive this type of incident, with as many as 8 out of 10 people not surviving. I am extremely grateful for the Minneapolis Heart Institute having the technology available to detect this type of heart defect, and for the physician's ability and expertise in finding the problem.
After the diagnosis, I underwent open-heart surgery (reimplantation of my left main coronary artery). The surgery went exceptionally well and, fortunately, I do not need follow-up care, other than the few check-ups and tests a few months after my surgery. The Minneapolis Heart Institute was literally able to save my life and correct a problem which most certainly considerably shortened my lifespan. I will never forget my experience at the Children's Heart Clinic and the Minneapolis Heart Institute and the expert care I received.