t age 17, I already had my life mapped
out: I would finish high school, attend
Juilliard, join the Paris Opera Ballet and
live happily ever after. I was dancing
almost seven days a week. My entire
existence was balancing trigonometry homework with
stuffing my pointe shoes with lamb’s wool. I almost didn’t
have time to think about boys — almost. I had big dreams.
Nothing was going to stand in my way.
The previous few years had been a whirlwind. I was so
overworked honing my craft that I would have sporadic
episodes of passing out at dance class. Not unreasonably,
my teachers dismissed it as pure exhaustion or dehydration.
I began noticing I was becoming extremely tired and out of
breath in these classes. I could barely get my heart to calm
down after performing a routine. It wasn’t too surprising
when I had trouble running the track in gym class. I felt so
winded. I couldn’t catch my breath and started dragging
behind. The coach yelled insults at me, hoping it would
motivate me to pick up my pace.
I ended up at the nurse’s office several times over my
If you’re old enough, you might remember basketball
high school career. The nurse excused my aforementioned
symptoms and even some swelling I had, saying that I
I was rushed to the emergency room with 20 pounds
of swelling from extra water in my body. This is a rare
and relatively unknown symptom of an underlying heart
condition, and it wasn’t until a resident at the Cleveland
Clinic thought he heard a heart murmur that they even
considered looking at my heart. Several more doctors were
brought in to confirm the murmur. Having all these people
listening to my chest, I felt like a human seashell with the
sound of the ocean inside me. Over the next few hours I
was subjected to a battery of tests without anyone telling
me what was going on. Afterward I was visited by Dr.
Lever, a cardiologist, who got right to the point and told me
I had a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
(HCM). My mom literally passed out from shock. They
put her in the hospital bed adjacent to mine, and when she
recovered he explained to both of us what HCM is and that
my activities with dance might be limited.
players Reggie Lewis and Hank Gathers, both of whom
Small Things with
By Lindsay Davis, Survivor | Lakewood, Ohio