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Michaela Gagne: The Courage to Know Your Health and How LongQT Syndrome Changed My Life

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Sometimes it’s easier to simply not know. Often we choose to live in question, rather than knowing the truth.
And it BOGGLES my mind.

Despite all the advances in technology and research, some people just don’t want to be told something could be wrong with their health. Been there. Done that. I used to tell myself it would have been much better to not have found out I have a heart co ndition so that I could have just lived a regular life …but who knows what could have happened had I not followed through with diagnosis and treatment?

It takes an extreme amount of bravery to squarely look yourself in the mirror and want to know everything going on inside of you. It takes even more courage to make the appointment to know for sure if you are healthy. No one wants to experience that moment of bad news. No one wants to be told they are no longer invincible. The truth is, though, that even more so no one wants a knock on their door telling them someone they loved has passed away unexpectedly.

My sophomore year of college I was instructed to write an essay about an important personal experience that changed my life. In my assignment, I explored the moment I was diagnosed with LongQT Syndrome while in high school. I intensely illustrated every sensation I felt during that moment I was told I have a heart condition that could unexpectedly claim my life at any moment, intricately describing my emotions and the way they played out over the weeks that followed. The following class my professor “published” our essays into a packet and distributed everyone’s writing project to each other. It was fun to check out my peers’ important experiences and develop a deeper understanding for the people they were.
That night at 9:30 I got a knock on the door to my dorm room. There stood Ashley, the girl who sat two seats behind me in class. The essays were in her hand, and tears were streaming down her face.

“This is me,” she sobbed. “Your story is my story.”
For the next hour she told me that in high school they suspected she had LongQT Syndrome because she had passed out during crew season several times. She was on the crew team in college, but could not find it within herself to finish getting tested. She lived in fear, and the only thing that scared her more than passing out again was being diagnosed. She didn’t know what she would do if she couldn’t be an athlete any longer…I knew that feeling only too well.

I picked up my essay where I had left off. I told her that I hadn’t been able to play sports, but I had found other amazing attributes within myself. Eventually I was able to be an athlete again, so there was hope for her too. The most important thing, though, was that we were both still alive. Ashley and I were lucky.

We shared many tears together, and she told me it felt so good to not be alone and share her secret with someone who understood. When she left that night, I thought I had given the persuasive argument of my life. I felt like I could’ve walked into any debate competition at that point and given it absolute hell.

Following our talk, Ashley’s mother called my own. They shared their stories, my mom re-living our family’s experience and giving advice on how to proceed with being examined.
A different Ashley entered my room one week later, a numb robot who told me she wasn’t going to find out if she had a heart condition. She had thought about it hard. Crew meant too much to her, and it was better to not know.
I was stunned. I tried to tell her the same words that had seemed to encourage her only 7 days ago, but my words fell upon deaf ears.

Classes ended for the year a few weeks later, and I never heard from Ashley again. I would periodically check the crew roster on our school’s website. Her name remained on it for the next two years.

The whole experience blew me away. I guess you can’t convince everyone to be aware of their health. I can only say I try to give it my best shot. It takes so much strength to take the steps to truly understand ourselves, whether it be mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and/or physically. Challenge yourself to gain this knowledge, and grow into a healthy individual who gives herself the best possible chance of longevity, health, and happiness.

For more, visit www.michaelagagne.com>

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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