By Amelia Trottier

In early December 2014, I was diagnosed with pneumonia when I had just turned 12.

I was going to see the doctors every second day to treat this when they discovered I had a heart murmur. They sent me to the Heart Centre at BC Children’s Hospital where there was a team of specialists led by Dr. Elizabeth Sherwin.

They diagnosed that I had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM).

This is a condition where a portion of heart muscles becomes thickened. The result is the heart is less able to pump blood effectively. Symptoms vary from none to feeling tired, leg swelling, and shortness of breath. It may also result in chest pain or fainting.

In my case, HCM was not allowing blood to circulate through my body properly, putting me at very high risk of having fainting spells and cardiac arrest.

Two days after the diagnosis, I had emergency open-heart surgery to clear some of the muscle that was blocking the passageways in my aorta. At the same time, they had to take care not to stress the rest of my heart.

They also implanted an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) into my shoulder to help me from any future cardiac arrests. An ICD is a device that detects any life-threatening, rapid heartbeats known as arrhythmia. If this happens, the ICD quickly sends an electrical shock to the heart. The shock helps to regulate the rhythm back to normal and is called defibrillation.

While growing up, I was very sporty; I did as much physical activity as I could. I am very fortunate I did not have any cardiac arrests prior to my diagnosis. Although I am no longer able to do competitive sports and I had to leave that part of my life behind, I have found a new passion. I went into the arts.

Now, instead of sports, I am a film and television actor and model in the greater Vancouver area. I hope to branch out internationally when I turn 16 in November. Even though I do miss some of my sports, I am glad to have found an industry I enjoy and one in which I can truly shine in even with my heart disease. ♥

“Amelia’s Heart Journey” is from our fall 2018 newsletter, Heart Matters. See our Newsletters page for more stories and to subscribe.