Supraventricular Tachycardia

Diagnosed With SVT

Diana Keough and her son Bret share their story of his Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT) diagnosis.


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Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT): It's Kind of A Big Deal

Growing up, I always thought of myself as being perfectly healthy. I never broke a bone and had never been to the hospital except when I was born. I played all kinds of sports—tennis, golf, baseball, soccer, ultimate Frisbee and was on a freestyle skiing team (which by itself should have given me at least a couple of fractures with all the insane things I did on skis). I was surrounded by reckless kids, who always had their arms in slings, but for some reason, I never got hurt. So I started to think I was invincible and for most of my childhood that concept was never challenged.

Maybe I'm Not Superman

That is, until I was diagnosed with SVT, or supraventricular tachycardia. SVT is characterized by episodes of a rapid heart rate that come as fast as they leave. I would experience a rush of blood to the head, feel light-headed, be short of breath, physically feel the rapid heartbeats, and sometimes experience chest pain. I figured this was just because I was working so hard on the tennis court (or wherever I was when it happened) and that everyone experienced the same thing.

So I never mentioned it to anyone.

My mom was a medical reporter at the time for The Plain Dealer and she would always bring her stories home with her to the dinner table, like what she witnessed while observing a back surgery or when a patient had cups of fat scooped out of her that looked like mustard. This habit of hers grossed us out on more than one occasion, but one story sticks out: my mom talked about a story she was working on about the new catheter lab at Akron Children’s Hospital that used new 3-D technology that made it easier for certain heart surgeries to take place without using as much radiation as in the past.

Who knew I would have surgery in that same catheter lab a couple years later?

A Former Superman's Kryptonite

A couple of days before my surgery I had to go in and give a blood sample. My Mom told me not to watch. I didn’t listen and passed out and had to be carried out of the room. I wish there was a funny story to go along with this, but there isn’t. I went home scared to death about what was going to happen just a couple of days later.

I'm going to be honest; it’s scary. My parents and Dr. John Clark, the director of the Arrhythmia Center at Akron Children’s Hospital, kept reassuring me that my condition wasn’t life-threatening, but I was still very scared.

I was only 15-years-old and had a lot of stuff I still wanted to do in my life. I had no idea what I was getting into or why this was happening to me, a kid who had never before been in any sort of medical trouble. I spent the entire week before the surgery worrying about what might happen to me: who would get my room if I died, who would take care of my dog, Sophie? I couldn’t imagine not being apart of my family. I found not thinking about what was coming and just living in the present was the best thing to do emotionally, but I couldn’t help but think of how much of a big deal this was for my parents.

From a Cape to a Hospital Gown

My surgery was scheduled for 8:00 a.m. We got there early, which meant I had to sit in the waiting room of the children’s hospital surrounded by what seemed like hundreds of crying babies for an hour, dressed in nothing but a hospital gown. When my turn came, they took my naked backside into the operating room. The nurses were all very nice. They chatted me up and asked me what kind of music I wanted to listen to during surgery. I told them Frank Sinatra.

And then I was out.

When I woke up, I didn’t actually become conscious until several hours later. I drifted in and out of sleep, and it took what seemed to be days (but was in reality only a few hours) to be able to think and move for myself. My father spent the night in the hospital room with me, and together we watched “Everybody Loves Raymond” until he went to sleep. I once again flirted with sleep while nurse after nurse came in to check my vitals and help me relieve myself into a bottle. (I would hate to have that job). For some reason, it got funnier and funnier for me to ask the nurse “Am I alive, doc?” every single time she came in, which was at least once an hour.

She didn’t find it nearly as entertaining as I did.

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