Grace’s Rapid Heartbeat Journey

“Knowing that I had good doctors and nurses to take care of me helped me not feel so alone during the entire process.”

– Grace, Patient

Grace’s Story

A Rapidly Increasing Problem

“A photo that means a thousand words!” That was the title of an email sent from a cardiac patient treated at Nemours Children’s Hospital, Florida to say thank you to the care team who were with her for her third heart ablation. In the picture Grace, the patient, is smiling brightly, surrounded by her medical team.

After experiencing heart palpitations at age 14, Grace was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome. With WPW, an extra signaling pathway between the heart’s upper and lower chambers causes a fast heartbeat. Grace had her first heart ablation and was told she could return to the activities she loved, such as cheerleading and running track. But, a few months later, she experienced more dizzy spells and fatigue. 

Beginning Care With Nemours Children’s

Since her doctor had left the state, Grace was seen by a cardiologist at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando. Grace then had her second heart ablation at age 14. Her recovery was normal, but once again, her uncomfortable palpitations resumed. “I knew something still wasn’t right, but there was no evidence to prove it,” Grace said.

Four years later, Grace remembers having a frightening episode of heart palpitations. This time Grace was seen by Dr. Svjetlana Tisma-Dupanovic, medical director of the Cardiac Center at Nemours Children’s. “We took Grace to our electrophysiology laboratory and performed successful radiofrequency ablation and removal of her WPW pathway that was causing her tachycardia,” said Dr. Tisma-Dupanovic. “Her accessory pathway was located very close to the normal conduction (AV node), making it challenging to eliminate during previous procedures. We are so happy that Grace can now enjoy life to its fullest.”

“Knowing that I had good doctors and nurses to take care of me helped me not feel so alone during the entire process. They always knew how to put a smile on my face even if I received the worst news,” said Grace. For other children on this journey, she offers, “don’t let anyone downplay your feelings or symptoms.”

Positive — and Lasting — Results

One year later, Grace, now 19 years old, attends business classes at Santa Fe College in Gainesville and recently learned that she no longer needs to see a cardiologist.

It is thought that WPW Syndrome occurs on average in 1.5 cases per 1,000 in otherwise healthy individuals. However, Nemours Children’s Health cardiac providers are noticing that with increasing EKG screening in athletes, they are seeing more individuals with the WPW pattern.