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Rebecca Smith Casey, New Jersey

Rebecca was a 15-year-old sophomore at South Hunterdon Regional High School when she began experiencing dizzy spells and black outs during field hockey practice.

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Her coach recommended getting her blood sugar checked.  However the symptoms persisted.  While at rest, her heart would start racing and she would get tunnel vision and faint.

Tests revealed that Rebecca had supraventricular tachycardia, a heart arrhythmia, that required her to undergo cardiac ablation.  Ablation is a procedure that uses radiofrequency energy (similar to microwave heat) to destroy a small area of heart tissue that is causing rapid and irregular heartbeats. Destroying this tissue helps restore your heart’s regular rhythm. After the procedure, Rebecca was no longer able to participate in high school sports and doctors feared that she might have limitations that would make it dangerous to drive or have children.

Rebecca had a second ablation procedure performed at age 30 and she still struggles with irregular heartbeats and low blood pressure.  However, she continues to see her doctor regularly to monitor her condition and she exercises regularly.

Despite her challenges, Rebecca persisted and has thrived personally and professionally.  She was cleared to drive at age 16.  She graduated from college, earned a masters’ degree, a law degree and most recently a doctorate in clinical psychology. She married and has a healthy toddler aged son. 

Rebecca is very involved in a number of charitable causes.  When she began experiencing difficulties due to her condition while training for a breast cancer walk, she decided to get involved with the American Heart Association.  She was invited to attend a briefing on cardiovascular health at the White House in February 2012 and currently serves as a co-chair of the AHA’s New Jersey State Advocacy Committee.

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