A Family's Fight Against Heart Disease
It's a condition that often goes undetected but can have devastating effects.
It entered Meghan and Tyler Kocher's lives approximately 20 years ago when their seemingly healthy eight-year-old cousin Zach died while he was swimming. Tests revealed Zach suffered from long QT syndrome, a dangerous arrhythmia that can cause the heart to go into lethal ventricular fibrillation.
Several years later, Tyler was undergoing a routine sports physical when his doctor noticed something on his electrocardiogram. Further tests revealed Tyler also had long QT syndrome.
At the time, he was 12 and too young for an implantable defbrillator/pacemaker. So Tyler, who lived for sports, says he turned into a "couch potato. There really wasn't much I could do."
A year later, he became what is believed to have been the youngest patient in Ohio to receive an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator/pacemaker. And it was around this time Meghan was diagnosed with the same condition, after she fainted during a track meet.
Genetic testing revealed other family members also had long QT syndrome, including the siblings' mother and aunt, who was Zach's mother.
Their experiences led Tyler, 28, and Meghan, 25, to careers related to heart and vascular disease. Tyler is System Project Manager for OhioHealth Heart & Vascular Services and Meghan is a cardiovascular sonographer at the McConnell Heart Hospital. "I look at hearts all day."
Their brother Kyle is a nurse at the McConnell Heart Hospital, where he also cares for heart patients. He does not carry the genetic mutation that causes long QT syndrome, and he also participates in the walk.
Tyler and Meghan experienced problems with their devices and ultimately had them removed, preferring medical management. One of the reasons they walk is to help develop better treatments and technology. "Ours were implanted in the early stages, and they are still coming along an evolutionary curve," Tyler says.
Treatment today is more personalized, says Tyler, who praises his physicians for "thinking outside the box" when he approached them about having his device removed.
He's learned living with an arrhythmia doesn't mean being a couch potato. He regularly runs marathons. "I just have had to be mindful of how I'm feeling."
Meghan and Tyler want to help spread awareness about long QT syndrome, which often goes undiagnosed until a person experiences sudden cardiac death. All too often, those experiences happen to young people during sports or other strenuous activities.
"We are walking for our family," Tyler says. Last year, they walked for Zach.