Tag Archives: children

Tackling WPW


Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome (WPW) is a condition in the heart where there is an extra electrical pathway within the heart. The challenge with the extra pathway is that it allows the electrical pulse that causes the heart to beat to enter into the heart’s valves unrestricted. This unrestricted electrical pulse can cause rapid heart rate and possibly sudden death if unchecked.

WPW is of even greater concern for athletes who push their heart rates to exorbitant levels to be the very best in their sport. Arielle is that athlete. She works her body in volleyball and track to be the very best. She is naturally athletic, but she does not take that for granted. She constantly strives to be better.

So when the diagnosis of WPW came knocking at her door, Arielle met the challenge head on. For more details on how the challenge began, check out my blog post “From Routine to OMG!

Once Arielle received the official diagnosis of WPW, she made the decision to go to the USATF Junior Olympic Nationals in Jacksonville. She made the choice in spite of the diagnosis because she had a score to settle. She did not make All-American in 2014 at Nationals in Houston TX and she wanted some vengeance this year in Jacksonville. And WPW was not going to keep her from it.

However, now that track season had finished with her redemption at Nationals, and high school volleyball season was at hand, we made plans to have the cardiac ablation procedure that would make WPW history once and for all for Arielle.

Our first appointment was a consultation with the electro-physiologist, Dr. David Bush. Dr. Bush would be performing the procedure on Arielle. He talked with us about WPW and particularly about Arielle’s case. He put her in the “moderate risk” category because she was an elite athlete and he saw the results of her Holter monitor diagnostics. Her max heart rate during diagnostics was 174 beats per minute. He assured us that doing this procedure was definitely in her best interests. Our final question before leaving the consultation…can she go to Six Flags Fiesta Texas? With a resounding “Yes” we were on our way…out of the consultation and on to Six Flags!

Procedure Day

Procedure day was met with palpable apprehension. D-Day had arrived. This was the day that Arielle would reclaim her sports life, but the angst about the unknown left her non-plussed. Since Arielle couldn’t eat after midnight before the procedure, she skipped breakfast and slept in. I quietly ate and silently prayed. This was a big day. We packed up our hotel and headed to the hospital.

Travel to the hospital was awkward. I knew that Arielle had tons of questions that I had no answers for. We joked a little as we let Siri navigate the route to the hospital. Upon our arrival, we parked and went down to the cath lab.   We checked in and sat down. Keri, the nurse who would be assisting in Arielle’s procedure came in to put a numbing agent on the area where the IV would be placed. They were finishing up another patient and would get to Arielle soon enough.

Arielle is not a fan of pain or the unknown, so I know that waiting for this procedure was really taking its toll on her. Even as a toddler, getting her to cooperate with her pediatrician or to get a shot called for some very creative thinking to get it accomplished! But she toughed it out because she understood that it was for the greater good. That’s the power of being a disciplined athlete. She knows that practice, repetition, weight training and core workouts are necessary because she understands that those things the keys to a great season, that greater good. This procedure would lead to greater good in her athletics.

I just simply prayed and stayed in faith. I refused to let my mind stray to the “what ifs”….

Soon, Keri came to get us to get Arielle prepped for the procedure. Arielle changed into the ever-so-fashionable hospital gown got her IV put in. Arielle hates needles, but she is too nosy not to look at what is going on. So since she hadn’t eaten since 10pm the night before, I thought it prudent that she not watch the IV go in because she might faint. So I had her look at me and talk so she wouldn’t be tempted to look.

The entire procedure crew was very nice and supportive. They were awed by how tall Arielle was and her athletic accomplishments. Apparently it was all the talk about this elite athlete coming in to get this procedure done. After all this was the pediatric unit! They actually had to extend her bed to its maximum length to accommodate her length.

They gave Arielle some happy juice to get her relaxed and that set her off in a fit of loopy giggles. I gave her kisses and she was wheeled away and I was taken to the waiting area and given instructions on how to contact them. The time was 1pm.

I went and got my laptop and some lunch and proceeded to start my blog. The procedure was scheduled for anywhere between 2 and 4 hours, so I got comfortable. About an hour or so later, Keri called give me an update on Arielle’s progress. She was doing well and Dr. Bush had isolated the alternate pathway.

Still prayerful, I continued to work on my blog. Shortly after that, around 3pm, Dr. Bush came in to say the procedure was complete and in about 20 minutes they would be taking Arielle upstairs. I packed up and was going to see my baby. Keri came and I actually rode up to the 9th floor with Arielle and the team. She looked good, but of course she was still anesthetized so she was oblivious to me or her surroundings.

They got Arielle in her room in the pediatric cardiac ICU (PCICU) and I was settled in with her. It was around 3:30pm. As I watched her sleep and looked at her vitals, I saw the blip in the EKG that was noticeably absent when we started this journey. I began to let my guard down. It was finally, FINALLY over. Just needed time to recover and this whole ordeal would be a thing of the past. Yes!

But then… Not again with the “but”…

At around 4pm I looked at her vitals and noticed that the blip seemed to flatten out and disappear…just like in the beginning…but I am not a doctor but it didn’t seem right.

Shortly after my mental assessment, one of the nurses came in and was on the phone with someone. I would later learn that it was the tech team that was assigned to monitor patient vitals. The nurse looked at me politely but an urgently concerned line etched her face. I listened to her end of the conversation…”No it doesn’t look like a delta wave…it can’t be that…yes I will call him.” My guard immediately started easing its way back up. What now?

The nurse took pictures of Arielle’s vitals. She explained that she was sending them over to Dr. Bush for review. The medical technician came in and took another EKG. Arielle was oblivious to it all of this activity because she was still under the anesthesia. There was a flurry of activity that had me on high alert. There was something not right with my child and the fix that was supposed to change everything.

By 4:30 Dr. Bush was back. He looked at the EKG and looked at me and said, “I don’t know what is going on, but we have to go back in and fix this. You guys have traveled too far to come back and I want to get this fixed for her. It is going to take a little bit to get everyone back together but as soon as that happens we are taking Arielle back downstairs and I will put in more lesions and close that pathway. I only have to go in on one side this time because I know where it is located.”

I say OK and then wait. At around 5:30 Arielle begins to come around. She starts to move and is a little perturbed by her discomfort. She is in and out of drowsiness so I didn’t try to explain to her what is about to happen to her again.

So back downstairs we go. It’s about 7pm. Arielle is still groggy and needing to go to the bathroom. I am putting on a brave face and trying to find that courage that had kept me up to this point. It was eluding me. My armor had been pierced and I didn’t know if I would make it this go round. All my reserves had been tapped and I was operating on fumes.   I was not scared or worried, but I was very, very concerned. After the initial ablation, Dr. Bush had let me know that the alternate pathway was very close to the original pathway and if he accidentally ablated the original pathway, it would cause heart block and that would end Arielle’s athletic career. Not restrict it—END it!

And now he has to go back in. It is of great concern for me. I am in the waiting area and I feel absolutely alone. I am shaken to my very core. Tears are pooling, but I cannot let them fall. If one falls then there would be an uncontrollable deluge and I have to be there for my baby. I have to be able to be her rock no matter the outcome and God knows I am believing for a positive outcome.

All of my external forces were showing signs of weakness, but my internal man was the prisoner of a positive expectation. I had to hold on to that hope that made me schedule her physical believing that no cardiac issues would be found. I needed that same hope that sent us to Jacksonville and allowed her to compete in spite of WPW. I needed that hope that put us on every roller-coaster at Six Flags. For I walk by faith and not by sight! So although my armor was failing and there were stress fractures in my thoughts, I still knew that it was going to somehow, someway be alright. It had to be.

I got a phone call from Keri saying that the lesions were done and they were doing tests. These tests involve introducing medicines into the body to give the heart adrenaline spikes so that they can check where the electrical pulses are traveling.   This goes on for quite a while to make sure that the pathway is completely closed. By 9:30pm Arielle, the team and I are taking the ride back up the elevator to her room. She is heavily sedated and still intubated. I couldn’t even look at her. My armor was almost completely useless at this point and I felt way too vulnerable.

Through the night, Arielle’s vitals remained normal and she showed no signs of reversion. An EKG was taken the following morning for Dr. Bush to review prior to discharge. Things were fine and the pathway was completely shut down. She still had to recover and was not completely released to go back to sports. Final clearance for competition would come when Dr. Black saw her in El Paso on August 26, 2015.

That was the best news ever. We were ready to head home. But first Arielle needed to use the bathroom normally before she could be discharged. The nurse helped her to sit up on the bed. Once she overcame the dizziness of double doses of anesthesia and 30 hours without food she was able to use the facilities. This was her “Get out of Jail FREE” card!

We went to breakfast at IHOP on our way out of San Antonio. It was raining but I wanted to get Arielle some food so that her systems could start recovering. She was still pretty drugged up and unsteady and it took some getting used to seeing Arielle in that state. It took Arielle a little bit to get used to being in this state too. She is very independent and having to hold on to your mother for support was a bit much.

As we were eating breakfast, I look up and see Arielle in tears! Intrinsically I knew. Finally, she had allowed herself to be overwhelmed by her situation. She had finally allowed herself to look over the edge of the cliff and into what might have been and to know that it was over. It is Over. It’s O-V-E-R!

I went over to sit with her, put my arms around her and just let it happen. No explanation necessary. No conversation required. Who cares that we are in IHOP. If they only knew… Over and done!

Arielle had her final appointment scheduled with Dr. Black on August 26, 2015. This day was dubbed “FINAL EKG AND OFFICIAL CLEARANCE DAY”! We were looking at this day with great expectation. But then…

Not ANOTHER “But”! This cannot be happening!

On Monday 8/24 I receive a call from the clinic to say that they are cancelling all of Dr. Black’s appointments because he is unable to come in from San Antonio. Then I am told that Arielle is being referred out to network and I should receive a referral letter in the mail in 7 days…. I heard nothing else after that. Seven days to wait to get a referral to a doctor who would then take a few more days to get me an appointment. And while this is happening, Arielle is unable to get back to volleyball. Absolutely not!

I thanked the nurse for the bad news, told her it was unacceptable but not her fault and came up with my own plan B. I immediately called Dr. Bush’s office, spoke with his nurse, and set another plan in motion. I got a prescription from Dr. Bush to have the EKG done here at the clinic and to have it faxed over to him to be read so that he could clear Arielle.

When we met with the provider on Arielle’s appointment day, 8/26, we gave an update of the procedure and how if it had not been for her looking for Marfan Syndrome the WPW would not have been discovered. Then she put in the order to get an EKG done and to have it faxed to Dr. Bush. We know the EKG routine now and it’s not as scary as it was on the front side of this situation. At first we were hoping that nothing was found and we are still hoping that nothing is found, but for a very different reason this time. Finding nothing means everything this time.

We waited and waited to be called to the EKG room. Our nerves were still on edge because of what happened while in San Antonio. The EKG was done and we left. Both Arielle and I were still uneasy, because it just seemed like the med tech didn’t do the EKG right. She just did not know what was riding on this EKG. One slip up and we are in trouble.

Now we just had to wait for the final review by Dr. Bush. I contacted the office to make sure that the EKG fax had been received. But Dr. Bush would not read the fax on Wednesday. He was in Laredo doing screenings. He would be back in the office on Thursday to read the EKG. So we had to wait ONE More Day.

The bad thing about waiting the one day means that she would not be quite ready to play in the volleyball tourney in Wofford TX, the weekend of August 28th – 29th. She was allowed to attend the tourney because her discharge paperwork said that she was able to practice but not released to compete. So I am waiting to get the clearance so I can get it to the trainer, so he can get it to the coach, so she can take the court with the team on Friday morning. Talk about cutting it close!

As of the writing of this blog…Arielle is 100% cleared! Back on the court and back in the game!

Check out  he WPW Outtakes blog. It has additional content on the WPW journey that I did not include here for the sake of your attention span.


The Theory of Specialization – Sports


How does the Theory of Specialization relate to sports? Is it real and why is it gaining traction across the country?

The theory of specialization was first introduced by Plato. It is an economic term and basically states that the need of a state could be supplied by four or five individuals. This theory was advanced through history by Adam Smith and Karl Marx. Smith believed that specialization of labor allowed companies to produce more goods and increase each worker’s ability. This theory, although not applied to sports in an official capacity, has been gaining traction throughout sports in the league ranks and is permeating the high school ranks as well. It seems to have skipped the middle school areas because middle school sports are more about inclusion rather than exclusion.

The theory of specialization, as it applies to sports, relates to how a parent, coach or other significant adult in a child’s life would lead a child to drop other sports and focus one particular sport in order to be really good or “specialized” in that area. That makes sense to some degree, but when a child is still growing physically and the body is changing does specialization help or hurt the child?

The body needs to use all of the muscles all of the time in a growing child and especially in an athlete. And the most natural way to do that is to participate in multiple sports. This is why in schools PE teachers have the students participate in all types of activities. This is to work all of the muscles. Cross-fit, the new take on cross-training from the 80s, is the new craze in fitness. It works all of the muscles. It makes for a well-rounded athletic specimen.

Specialization too soon can hurt the child and lead to the following:

  1. Impaired muscles
  2. Injury
  3. Sport-burnout
  4. Resentment

You can put this list in any order that you want. No matter how you slice it, the results are not healthy or helpful for a child pursuing sports.

The body needs to use all of the muscles in order to grow properly. If a person begins to specialize in one sport too soon, using the same muscles repetitively year round in this sport, the other muscles begin to suffer. This leads to the non-dominant muscle becoming pulled in an abnormal way because the dominant muscles are so much larger because of repetitive use.

Since the body is built symmetrically, it is designed to be relatively the same on both sides. But you can tell even in small things which part of your body you use the most. Here is a mini-experiment to prove my point: Look at your hands. Notice that your dominant, or writing, hand is slightly bigger than your non-dominant hand. It’s the same thing with your feet. The one that gets the most workout is the one that is bigger.   And the same thing applies with your entire body. If you are right side dominant then that side tends to be bigger because it does most of the work.

When the muscles specialize, they tend to shorten to the specific task that they are required to do. However, when the tasks change on a regular basis then the muscles becomes more flexible and elastic so that it is prepared to do any task asked of it.

So, back to specialization. Am I saying that specialization is wrong? No. It becomes necessary if your child is going to advance in sports beyond high school or even as a career choice. However, specialization should be done based on the desires of the child, not the desires of the coach or even the parent. A child should be allowed to be in all of the sports that he/she feels capable of competing in until they decide on what sport they want to specialize in. After all, your child is the one doing the work. And with kids if the work is not fun, then it is not worth doing.

Also, just because you get some attention from a recruiter in a sport, does not automatically mean that you should drop everything and focus solely on that sport. *CAVEAT* If you know the reality of you getting recruitment looks and possibly advancing in the 2nd or 3rd sport is very minute beyond high school then by all means do what is best for your child.

As parents you do have to perhaps limit the sports to what you can handle financially.   However, even if you don’t do all the summer leagues and just narrow events down to one league sport for the summer, you can still keep your child going in the other sports with summer camps. My daughter plays three sports and is also in an elite triple jump program for track. She does volleyball camps and does summer basketball league. Her primary focus in summer is track because that is her sport that she wants to focus on in college and also wants to use to go to the Olympics.

All of these sport things are subject to my daughter’s schedule and what events take priority. However, she is in full control of what she wants to do and when she is going to begin to specialize. Its only fair because she is the one that has to do the work.  She knows her body and how much it is capable of enduring.  And as long as its fun for her she will continue.

Your child should be given the opportunity to play as many sports as he/she can so that they will have more chances to be really great at the sport of their choosing rather than the sport of the coach’s demand or the parent’s desire. Many times a child will incorrectly infer that they are not good enough for another sport if you want them to specialize too soon.

After all, the child is the controlling partner in this investment. They put in the work, they go out and produce and they deal with the consequences of their actions on the field or court. Our job as parents is to guide the child to the best possible scenario for them, and teach them how to navigate their lives in such a way that the each decision made is driven by the motivation of giving them the most successful outcome for the work that they put in.

Being Courted


Being courted is an old-fashioned term used many years ago to mean dating with intent. Now what exactly is “dating with intent”? Well in order to define courting vs dating 2014, one must define dating as it stands in today’s society. Today dating does not mean the traditional meet for a movie or food with a person with whom you have a growing infatuation of affinity. No, dating today is what we used to term “I like you and you like me so we ‘go’ together.”

Courting, on the other hand, means dating with the intent to marry. Back in the day, a young man did not just show up, grab the girl, and take her away on a date. No indeed not. If you were considering yourself courting, you had intent to do right by the young lady. You showed up at the home, addressed the parents and made that intention known. The Father and Mother blessed the intention maybe, and made it clear that if you did not make good on your intent, it would not go well for you.

In the arena of recruiting there is a similar type of courting going on. The school looks at your child’s information, video, or sees them at a camp or performance and decides if they are a good fit for their program. Then they decide how much “courting” they are willing to do.

My daughter, Arielle, got a letter of interest yesterday from a college for track & field. Her Snapchat picture and the emoticons pretty much tell the story. She has just gotten a taste of what it feels like to be courted. She is now enamored with this school and is beginning to realize that this is not a drill. She will soon be in a position to have to make some hard decisions on how she wants her future to play out.

Because she is just a sophomore, there are some rules and regulations that college coaches must adhere to in the recruiting game. However, there are some things that they can say in the context of a “general” information letter that will clue you in on how much courting they want to do with your child.

Now it is up to you to determine if the level of courtship is to be reciprocated. You know what I mean…you remember the love letter that goes like this:

I like you a lot. Do you like me? Check the box Yes ☐ or No ☐

Once you get a letter courting your child, and you understand the level of the courtship, how do you determine which box to check? Or are you like Arielle was, infatuated and ready to sign on the dotted line?

I must admit that I was very excited as well to see the Snapchat post. My heart did kind of skip a beat and I was instantly infatuated. It feels good! You see that your child’s hard work is being recognized and that doors are beginning to open ever so slightly.

It is important that we as parents make sure we know what our children want in a school as well as what we want FROM the school in order to determine if they are a viable candidate for consideration. Information on the school is fine, but if we don’t know what we want from the school how do you know if the school meets the standard?

Many times, we as parents 1.   do not think about college until it is breathing down our necks. Then there are other parents who have instilled the college mindset into our kids but 2. have not embraced the dream of our kids in college for ourselves. And some still 3.  have a fear of the cost of college and because of that, they do not speak about it to their children for fear that they will be unable to pay for it. Others, still 4.  may not have had the traditional college experience and therefore they don’t push it for their children.

My college scenario is a combination of #1 and #3. I lived with my Aunt and Uncle and my Dad lived in Philadelphia. As long as I remembered I had talked about going to college. My route was going to be through academics not sports. I was smart, and got chosen to go to Engineering summer Camp two years in a row and won the Governor’s Energy Essay Contest for the 10th grade Division etc. However, no one seriously looked into the cost of college or really even considered it much. This was in the days before the internet, so everything you got from schools came via snail mail. I had schools sending me letters like crazy trying to get me to apply to their school. Don’t be fooled just because the NCAA offers a sliding scale for qualification, the better your ACT/SAT test scores the more opportunities open up for you academically.

I eventually applied and got into both of the top universities in South Carolina, University of South Carolina and Clemson University. I did everything required to make sure that my enrollment was assured and I prepared to go to college. About two weeks after high school graduation, my aunt comes to me and states that no one has considered how much it was going to cost to go to USC and so I will have to take the small scholarship offered by Francis Marion College and go there and stay at home with them instead.   Needless to say it was like a kick in the gut! Did they think college was free? Did they not know that I had wanted to go to college? I cried for 3 days straight, I wouldn’t eat, I wouldn’t leave my room. I was on a hunger strike! I was basically telling them that either I go to the college of my choice or die in that room. Yes the struggle was real and the tantrum was in full effect! Eventually, my Dad worked out the finances and along with a couple of student loans to supplement the shortfall, all I can say is Go ‘Cocks! Yes I graduated from the University of South Carolina.

The moral of the story is: Don’t make your kids pay for your lack of understanding. Do your homework, know your limitations and be prepared to help your child get the educational experience of a lifetime.

10 Steps to Navigating “The Bad Performance” Meltdown

Compass and Map

We have all been there and we have all witnessed it…That moment when your child has an awful performance when he/she should have had their best. The meltdown is brewing just under the surface and you have to help your child save face. Here is a list of 10 things to help your child get through “the bad performance” meltdown moment.

1.  Remember: This is NOT about you!

  • I know you feel badly for your child and you wanted so desperately for them to do better. It pains you to see your child in turmoil, but he/she has just endured what feels like the upset of a lifetime…your focus is on them. You can grieve later.

2.  Get someplace private quickly.

  • My vehicle is my place of choice. No distractions, semi-private, and can be moved to a more secluded area for additional privacy.

**NOTE: DO NOT drive while doing these steps! You must be fully present in the moment and give your child your undivided attention.  Your child’s mental well-being depends on you in this moment. FOCUS on them.

3.  Give your child room and permission to let it out.

  • Let them know you are there to listen then keep quiet and do it!
  • No judgment, no censorship.

How you feel about what he/she is saying is not important. Your child is entitled to their feelings.

4.  Don’t rush the moment. Give it time.  

  • Let them find their own words. No prompting.
  • I know the silence is deafening and you want to fill it with all the many quips, quotes and “isms” to make it all better. NOT NOW! This is your child’s time.

5.  Let them vent.

  • Do not attempt to console them or make it better.
  • Trying to console them is our selfish attempt to assuage our own discomfort at their situation. It does not help the child.

6.  Listen to them! Really engage.

  • It is their moment, their feelings. Remain focused. Being distracted will damage trust if he/she asks you a question “mid-vent” and you haven’t been listening!
  • Make mental notes of things that you wish to clarify AFTER the venting is complete.

7.  Correct erroneous, derogatory or self-deprecating comments that your child makes about him/herself.

  • For example: “Yeah because I suck!” or “I’m a screw-up!”
  • Those must be addressed immediately.
  • Interruptions, at this point, are allowed, but do not steal the floor.
  • Help him/her distinguish themselves from the event.
  • Example: “Yes, perhaps you did not have your best performance today, but you are still the same person who set the record, hit the note that brought the crowd to its feet, choreographed that killer routine, got the sack, interception, TD, goal, free throw etc. just last week. And you are still that person right now. Tonight is an event in your life, it is not you.”

8.  Give them time and opportunity to grieve the moment.

  • I allow my child 5 minutes to do whatever he/she needs to engage and express the intense emotion that comes with a loss or disappointment.
  • She can scream, cry, roll around on the floor, jump around, yell or punch a pillow.
  • Profanity, self-inflicted pain, and property damage or destruction is NOT allowed.
  • Teach appropriate behaviors for dealing with grief.
  • While watching your child rolling on the floor may make you uncomfortable, it is a lot less painful than other things that your child may find to numb unexpressed pain later on.
  • This can become quite the comical moment, but try to remain focused on the gravity of the situation.
  • At around 2 minutes the grief subsides. (It does not last forever even though it may feel that way.)
  • At about 3 minutes she begins to feel silly because it doesn’t hurt anymore.

**NOTE: It is important that you emphasize that once he/she has this moment to grieve, that the pain and emotion of the situation is over. The event can only be revisited and used as a learning tool, not to be worn as a badge of one’s inferiority.

9.  Wash away the physical residue of the moment/event.

  • Once she is done with the grief, then it is time to get some comfort food, a good movie, ice cream, a hot bath or whatever lifts the spirit to a happy place.

10.  Find something good in the situation

  • Even meltdown moments have flashes of brilliance. Emphasize the good in the midst of the bad so that your child knows that all is not lost and he/she WILL live to perform another day.