For MedicAlert member Sophie White, World Heart Day on September 29 was about raising awareness of the heart conditions that affect millions of Australians, as well as being thankful for modern medicine and advancements that have helped her live a normal life.
The 23-year-old was diagnosed with Neurocardiogenic Syncope in 2011, a heart condition that causes a drop in blood pressure and a slowed heart-rate.
As the most common type of syncope in young people, Neurocardiogenic Syncope is typically benign but can cause random loss of consciousness – something which is of natural concern to Sophie and those around her.
“The best way to describe it is that my body doesn't understand the fight/flight response and overreacts when my heart rate increases – sometimes so much so that my heart completely stops beating in order to recover,” Sophie said.
“When this happens, my body shuts down and I faint and have a seizure and completely lose consciousness.”
In 2012 Sophie had a pacemaker implanted to alleviate the strain on her heart, and gained added peace of mind from a MedicAlert medical ID – an item that she says is invaluable in ensuring she is properly cared for in an emergency.
While the pacemaker doesn’t mean she won’t have another syncope episode, her MedicAlert medical ID means she feels safer if something were to “go wrong”.
“If I were to have an episode in public and I didn't have anyone around me that knew me, it'd be very likely that an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) would be used to jumpstart my heart – but they are not compatible with my model of pacemaker,” she said.
“My MedicAlert medical ID tells people what condition I suffer from, that fact that I have a pacemaker and not to use an AED – it really is a matter of life and death.”
World Heart Day was founded in 2000 to raise awareness of the fact that heart disease and stroke are the world’s leading causes of death, claiming more than 17 million lives each year.
MedicAlert Chief Executive Heidi Jones said modern medicine had moved in leaps and bounds to support those with heart conditions – but a simple internationally recognised bracelet, wristband or necklace could also ultimately save a life.
“Many heart conditions, like Neurocardiogenic Syncope, involve loss of consciousness and serious health implications for those involved – and quick action is vital,” she said.
“A MedicAlert medical ID informs the public or anyone administering emergency aid of a health condition when the patient can not. They can and do save lives – everyday.”
Thankfully Sophie hasn’t had an experience that has required her MedicAlert medical ID to be used since the insertion of her pacemaker – but she says it’s not a matter of if, but when.
“It will certainly happen, and until that time I’m feeling secure knowing that anyone needing to administer treatment will have the information they need to help rather than hinder my recovery.”
For more information on who should wear a MedicAlert medical ID visit www.medicalert.org.au/who-needs-membership