As some of you may have noticed, I took a little break. It wasn’t a pleasure cruise — like Gilligan and The Skipper took. But, we needed to do it. The outpouring of support and friendship from friends of this writer and this site was especially heartening. I even unexpectedly heard from a few political celebrities and drive-by media figures who I did not know were fans of the site.
My hospital stays this month and in January dealt with treating something called “hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.” It’s genetic. You’re born with it. Most at risk are people of large-frame builds (football lineman or linebacker build or basketball forward build). I am 6’5” and north of 300 lbs. and a former football lineman. So, I was smack dab in the middle of the target group.
My flavor of HCM ended up being diagnosed as “obstructive” — the most risky kind. This is ONE of the things that took out Andrew Breitbart. Some of you may remember the 1990 death of college basketball scoring machine Hank Gathers. He collapsed during a game. HCM was a leading contributor to his death.
Most of these stories you hear about — involving players dying during games or practices — are connected to HCM. The NCAA is pushing for testing of all football players and basketball players. An EKG can’t always detect it, though. From my experience, it appears the best way to look for it is with a chest X-ray and an echocardiogram (basically like the sonogram pregnant women get).
You can be in great athletic shape, a non-drinker, and a non-smoker, and still have this condition. (Diagnosis, however, ends your competitive sporting career.) If you have ANY blood relatives who simply DROPPED DEAD, it’s worth having yourself AND your children checked.
I am thankful for the medical professionals we have in this state and country, who — despite the best attempts at mischief and mayhem by politicians — are able to work magic on a daily basis. We in North Carolina are very lucky to have something the caliber of Duke Medical Center within our borders. (It is my understanding that Duke is one of a handful of institutions worldwide that treats HOCM. It is also my understanding that TWO of the world’s leading authorities on this disease are on staff there.)
This wasn’t just about me. I hope that this information raises awareness about HCM and HOCM among our readers. Hopefully, it will inspire you to get checked. Hopefully, it will help prevent at least ONE sudden, unexpected, tragic death.