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How a sports physical saved my life... PSATs, SATs, and GPA. These are the most common words a typical high school student will hear about. But EKGS, Echos, MRIs, and Open-Heart Surgery? Not so much. During the summer of 2009, I was introduced to this new set of vocabulary. I made the M-A Dance Team my freshman year, and I had to have a sports physical; something that should have been just a normal visit to the doctor’s office to get my papers signed off. Prior to the pre-participation physical exam, I was thought to be totally healthy. I had played competitive soccer since I was 5 years old, and there was nothing that made me question my health. I thought nothing of this check up, and honestly, I thought it was a waste of my time. At the exam, it was noted that I had exceptionally high blood pressure, and the next thing I knew, I was at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital having a battery of tests on my heart. I had to have multiple EKGs, which is an electrocardiogram that displays my heartbeat. Then, I had to have an Echo (echocardiogram), which shows the action of the heart using ultrasound waves to produce a visual display. Upon further evaluation, my cardiologist explained that I was either going to have open-heart surgery, or a less complicated procedure that involved a stent. After the MRI, I was found to have a type of congenital heart disease called aortic coarctation, meaning I needed immediate open-heart surgery.   

On July 28, 2009, I underwent corrective open-heart surgery. I was kept in the Intensive Care Unit, and after eight days, I was finally sent home. Three weeks before starting freshman year of high school, I was still recovering from surgery.

Although it has already been more than a year since the surgery, I still have restrictions on what I can do. I cannot lift weights, or do push-ups, and I cannot play competitive sports that would risk contact to my chest. If I were to do these things the result could be fatal. I also am restricted to carrying a maximum weight of 20 pounds. Something as simple as carrying a backpack at school is still an issue because of this. After digesting this entire situation that I just went through, I realized that making the Dance Team and having my sport’s physical literally saved my life. I am one of the rare kids whose life was saved by a routine pre-participation physical exam. By going through the many screening exams, they discovered my heart disease that has been present since birth but had gone undetected until adolescence. As my cardiologist says,

“[Lauren] is a positive example of exactly why that process – which otherwise often feels cumbersome to everyone involved – exists”. I cannot express enough the importance of going to have a routine check-up and pre-participation sports physical is. Although you might think having to take time away from your day to go have a sports physical may be a complete annoyance and a waste of time, it could also save your life – just like it did for me.  

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PHOTOGRAPHY Mao Mei Sonkin ILLUSTRATION Maria Ikonomou

The MArk October 2010  

This is the October edition of Menlo-Atherton's student magazine. Doesn't the weather make you want to curl up by the fire with a nice copy...

The MArk October 2010  

This is the October edition of Menlo-Atherton's student magazine. Doesn't the weather make you want to curl up by the fire with a nice copy...

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