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Second opinion gives teen with abnormal heart rhythm a new lease on life

Morgan Maclean is an active teen who has loved to shoot hoops and drive balls into the fairway since she was a little kid. She started playing golf when she was 2.

Then bouts of supraventricular tachycardia, a rapid heart rate that involves both the upper and lower chambers of the heart, threatened to sideline her. It was a frightening time for both Morgan and her parents, Sally and Colin Maclean of Westlake.

Her cardiologist prescribed beta blockers, which seemed to considerably slow her down. She wore heart monitors to track her vital signs and became tentative about exercising. Morgan’s doctors warned her that her racing heart could take her life if she didn’t slow down.

“It was like she instantly turned into a grandma,” said Morgan’s mom, Sally. “We would try to do something routine, like go biking on the towpath trail and I, her mother, would be miles ahead of her. She just had no energy and was scared to push herself.”

The family knew they wanted to fix the situation and began looking for a second opinion. That’s when they found John Clark, MD, director of the pediatric arrhythmia center at Akron Children’s Hospital, after seeing a TV commercial that featured him.

“Dr. Clark spent a lot of time with us,” Sally said. “He did a great job explaining everything to Morgan. It really helped her feel more comfortable both with the diagnosis and the cath procedure he wanted to perform to remedy the situation.”

Morgan successfully underwent cryoablation on Jan. 5, 2012. Cryoablation uses low temperatures to destroy abnormal electrical pathways within the heart. It is especially useful for children with smaller hearts because it allows the cardiologist to test the electrical effects of the process before destroying the abnormal heart tissue or damaging other parts of the heart.

Two weeks later, Morgan felt like she had her life back. As a National Honor Society member and a senior at Magnificat High School, Morgan is now able to get back into the swing of things in the classroom, on the course and on the courts. Now she is able to focus on her bright future, which she hopes will include medical school.

“When he heard she was interested in becoming a doctor, Dr. Clark spent a lot of time talking to Morgan about medical school and health care,” said Sally. “It should come as no surprise that she now would like to be a pediatric cardiologist, so she can help people in her situation just like she was helped by Dr. Clark.”

Morgan is already paying it forward by acting as a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association. She speaks to groups about her experience to educate, inspire and help raise money.

Learn more about Morgan, Dr. Clark and supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) by watching this recent SportsTime Ohio news segment.

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