DORAL, Fla. – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1,500 people under the age of 25 die every year from sudden cardiac arrest or SCA.
“We just feel super lucky to be alive,” said Bethany Keime, with her sister Hannah by her side.
The sisters didn’t realize they were at risk for SCA until their aunt was diagnosed with a genetic heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which leads to enlargement of the heart.
“When I was diagnosed, my doctor told me immediately I had to stop playing sports, I had to stop dancing, because it was too much of a risk because of the growth of my heart,” Hannah said.
“This is one of the more common causes of sudden cardiac death in young people,” said Dr. Demetrio Castillo, a cardiac electrophysiologist with Memorial Healthcare.
As the girls hearts became more enlarged, they both underwent surgery for implantable defibrillators.
“Basically the device sits under the skin up by the shoulder. There are some cables that run by the heart and the ideal scenario is that it identifies somebody who’s at risk before something ever happens,” Castillo said.
The device has saved Hannah from four episodes, one of which was caught on camera during a high school performance back in 2017.
“It’s not a pleasant experience. I describe it almost as a sledge hammer hitting a home run on your chest. It really knocks the wind out of you,” Hannah said.
“Without a defibrillator, if someone has one of those events then it’s called sudden cardiac death and you’re counting on CPR from first responders, treatment and hospitalization, and even with all the best treatment those outcomes are typically not good,” Castillo said.
Hannah and Bethany have turned their diagnosis into a desire to help and support others through a special Instagram page called “HeartCharged.”
“It’s crazy, every week we get somebody from around the world that thanks us for doing what we can do and share on Instagram at HeartCharged -- it’s just incredible. It’s been a great experience being able to connect with all these people,” Bethany said.
While in general heart screenings are not recommended for young people, they are vital for those with a known family history of certain heart conditions.