When a Teen Had Fainting Spells, Doctors and Surgeons at Cohen Children’s Found the Cause — and Cure
Fourteen-year-old Gianna Schupler is, by all accounts, a kind, bright, well-spoken teenager. And she’s very passionate about her dancing. So when Gianna began fainting during her most beloved and athletic dance style, tap, it was originally chalked up to dehydration. She kept on dancing.
When the episodes continued, her parents, Maria and Phil Schupler, wondered: What could be causing this? And why only during tap?
It’s a good thing Gianna’s parents questioned her fainting spells when they did, said Cohen Children’s Medical Center cardiac surgeon David Meyer, MD. In Gianna’s case, her left coronary artery had an abnormal course — a potentially life-threatening anomaly, which can cause sudden death during exercise.
Dr. Meyer said that identifying this type of heart condition is difficult, but critical. “A patient like Gianna appears fine when she’s not exercising, and her condition is difficult to diagnose without highly specialized equipment. But our team of cardiologists and radiologists were able to find it before she suffered any permanent damage or sudden death.”
When Gianna exerted herself, her heart muscle was starved of blood, became weak and couldn’t pump enough blood to her brain, causing her to pass out. “We were determined to repair her heart right away, not only to decrease her risk for death, but also to get her back on the dance floor,” Dr. Meyer said.
Caring for the Heart of a Star
Fortunately, Cohen Children’s has the expert staff and technology to locate, map and correct complicated heart problems like Gianna’s. After a complex open heart procedure and just five days in the hospital, Gianna was on the road to recovery.
For her part, Gianna said she wasn’t aware of how serious her heart problem was at the time. “I just knew they were going to do a short surgery and fix me up. I was excited that I wouldn't faint anymore,” she said.
Today, both Gianna and her parents couldn’t be happier with the care she received at Cohen Children’s. In fact, the surgery was so successful that Gianna was dancing again in less than three months. She won the Starbound National Dance Competition in tap shortly thereafter.
Ms. Schupler was thrilled that the staff at Cohen Children’s took such good care of her daughter. “They made sure she was comfortable and let her recover at her own pace. It was the best experience I’ve ever had in a hospital. We’re so grateful,” she said.
Watch Gianna's story at bit.ly/heartofadancer.
We’re here to help
Cohen Children’s Medical Center provides the most sophisticated, state-of-the-art care for children. To find a pediatrician, call 888-321-DOCS.