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Change of Heart

By Katelyn Cobb
Richard Bland College of William & Mary ‘17

When you are a 15-year-old teenager going to high school, hanging out with friends, and playing sports, the last thing you could ever imagine hearing is that you have heart disease and need a pacemaker, especially when there’s no family history of heart disease. But in April 2013, that’s exactly what I found out.

My heart condition was discovered by fluke. While at a friend’s house, I ate something cooked too hot. The reaction caused me to black out and suffer a mild concussion.

After a visit to the hospital and several doctors, I was told I had a heart blockage and needed a pacemaker. Surgery lasted four hours and it took several months

for me to recover. Typically, a pacemaker is inserted in the chest, but because I was young, the device was placed in my armpit for better protection.

I’ve had a dual-chamber pacemaker for nearly four years. A pacemaker is a small device that sends electrical impulses to the heart that allows it to beat at a normal rate and rhythm. A normal and healthy heartbeat is between 50 and 100 beats per minute. My heart beat ranges between 30 and 60 beats per minute and drops between 20 and 30 beats per minute when I’m not active.

Having a pacemaker has not stopped me from living a normal and active life. I’m a pitcher on the RBC softball team. I take part in all practices and games and participate in all the same drills as my teammates. When I’m on the mound, I’m not afraid of a ball coming back at me. I have good reflexes and instincts to protect myself. The highlight of my career has been defeating Virginia Tech 1-0 last year.

I don’t have any diet or exercise restrictions, but I get plenty of rest, drink lots of water and eat healthy.

Initially, I visited my doctor every three months to check my pacemaker. The evaluation included getting an electrocardiogram, which determines the electrical activity of my heart. I now see my doctor every six months to make sure my pacemaker’s electrical impulses are activated and working properly. The examination also involves testing how much battery the pacemaker uses on a daily basis.

Aside from friends wanting to carry my book bag after returning to school, most people are not aware of my heart condition. When someone does find out, they are curious given my age and activity with softball. I get asked a lot of questions, but I’m not treated any differently because I have a pacemaker.

Having a pacemaker has made me a stronger person. I know that I will lead a normal and healthy life as long as I continue to be active, watch my diet, focus on my career goals and remain positive.

Katelyn Cobb is a sophomore from Newsoms, VA. She plans to attend VCU in Fall 2017 and major in Physical Therapy.

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