Teen's heart problem reveals a bigger problem

July 25, 2011 7:51:32 AM PDT
CPR can save lives and so can knowing your family history, as Kate Weigel and her family learned.

15-year-old Weigel was at volleyball practice at Yorktown High school, when suddenly, she collapsed. Her heart had stopped, and she was in cardiac arrest. The coaches then got the defibrillator.

"I don't remember anything, and then I woke up and saw a lot of paramedics around me saying 'you're gonna be okay.' and I was going in the ambulance," said Weigel.

Weigel was then sent to the Maria Fareri Children's hospital at Westchester Medical Center. There, pediatric cardiologist Dr. Deborah Friedman set out to find out why Wiegel had collapsed.

After all, Weigel's emergency room electrocardiogram (EKG) had been normal.

Then Dr. Friedman got a clue.

"Her uncle had died when he was 16 during a sporting event," noted Dr. Friedman.

Like Kate, her teenaged uncle had collapsed, but his coach had not been able to save him.

Tests were ordered and a genetic test discovered what Weigel had probably killed her uncle as well.

The results showed that she had rare inherited heart rhythm disorder called CPVT - short for Catecholaminorgic Polymorphic Ventricular Tachycardia.

"It's just like a shot of adrenaline shoots to your heart and haywires it," said Kate's mother, Daria Weigel.

"She had had previous electrocardiograms in her life and there was never any suspicion that she had an inherited arrythmia until she had a cardiac event," stated Dr. Friedman.

It was the collapse that raised the flag. Kate's mother and her brother, Robert were both positive for the gene. Kate's grandmother and another uncle also tested positive. So did the uncles' 2-year-old daughter, Veronica.

Daria and Kate now both have implantable cardiac defibrillators and so does Kate's brother, Robert. the ICD's will charge their hearts if they stop, but it is the CPR and the defibrillators that are now part of the family mission.

Kate can't take part in sports for now, but as far as she this now 16-year-old is concerned, there's a lot ahead she is planning for.

"I'm going to go to college and go into nursing. I want to give back, so it's the best way to give back," she said.