IRON MOUNTAIN - Elli McCole, a junior at Iron Mountain High School, has plenty to be grateful for this year. After being diagnosed with Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome (WPW), McCole has made a full recovery and is stronger than ever.
Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, or WPW syndrome, is the presence of an extra, abnormal electrical pathway in the heart that leads to periods of a very fast heartbeat. A person with this syndrome may experience chest pain or chest tightness, dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, palpitations, a sensation of feeling your heart beat and/or shortness of breath.
Although the extra electrical pathway of Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome is present at birth, McCole didn't learn she had the defect until the spring of 2011.
Elli McCole hits a ball during Iron Mountain High School girls tennis practice at the East Side courts in Iron Mountain. After being diagnosed with a heart ailment in the spring of 2011, McCole has made a full recovery.
Theresa Peterson/Daily News Photo
"I had a knee injury from playing soccer and I went to hospital, when I was there I passed out," she said. "They told me it was probably from the pain in my knee and they sent me home."
But the fainting episodes continued and an electrocardiogram was ordered.
"We were sitting waiting for the results and we heard a code red over the intercom," said Elli's mother Trish McCole. "I remember saying to Elli, 'Oh my god someone is really in trouble.' Then they came running in with the cart. Dr. (Vennaralagappan) Mahadev was in there like that and he looked her over," she said.
Mahadev, a cardiologist, diagnosed McCole with WPW and referred her to the Milwaukee Children's Hospital where Dr. Anoop K. Singh confirmed the diagnosis.
"He explained to us that when the extra pathway in her heart was open it was like a short circuit. The blood wouldn't make it to the bottom part of the heart and then she would pass out." said Trish McCole.
"Then they told me, we're gonna get this, but sometimes people have this surgery and they can't play sports again. You're just gonna have to find something else to do," said Elli McCole.
This was devastating to Elli, who plays high school soccer, tennis and basketball. "That really hit me hard. Sports is something I've done my whole life." she said.
Singh performed a procedure called a catheter ablation. "They cut through her groin, leg and neck. They went through the artery in her neck, mapped out her heart, found the extra pathway and cauterized it," said Trish McCole.
The surgery took about four hours, but because they went through her neck, McCole had to lie straight with out moving for nine hours after the procedure. "When I came home from the surgery I couldn't be by myself for a while." she said.
A month later she had a check up with Dr. Singh and he told her mother, "She is good to go." McCole started playing tennis again last fall. She had one small hiccup that season when she passed out during a tennis match after the surgery.
"That was really scary," she said. "They said after I passed out I kind of freaked. I was just really over-dehydrated, It was hot, I was sick, my blood sugar was low and I panicked. I was told it was just a fluke and my heart was fine. My emotions were on a roller coaster for a while. I think a lot of people took it easy on me because they saw me pass out. I hated that."
This season is a new chapter in her life. McCole played sports as a Flivver her freshman and sophomore years but after transferring to Iron Mountain she will play her junior and senior sports as a Mountaineer.
"Since my heart surgery I've felt stronger then ever. I can run without getting out of breath. I'm not as tired." she said. McCole is excited that tennis season has started. She has more confidence in herself.
"I know I'm healthy. I know I'm stronger." she said. As far as playing against her former Flivver team mates McCole says "It's gonna be weird."
Trish McCole is also happy her daughter is returning to sports. "As a mom I was much more hesitant but the doctor said she will be fine, kids are more resilient. Of my three kids she's the most active one. Elli is lucky. Anything could have happened."
McCole has to check in with her cardiologist once a year for tests, but she appears to be doing great. The experience has even sparked her interest in the medical field. Although she hasn't chosen a college yet she is sure to pick one with a good sports program.
Theresa Peterson's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.