April 3, 2012

The Other Side of Philanthropy

“You may have a heart condition.”

Six little words that can instantly shake your world. At 22, a college senior is usually thinking about graduation and life after college. But in that instant, my thoughts of the future stopped.

Everything began from simply running at practice…

I play rugby for Shippensburg University. At the first practice of the season, I suddenly became dizzy, nauseated and lost my sense of balance. Since I had a concussion only three months prior, my team took precautions and sent me to the local emergency room. I was thinking it could be something with my head, but was not phased when an EKG (Electrocardiography) was taken “just for cautionary measures.” After many tests, the doctor came into the room and began discussing the results of my EKG. An EKG is essentially a test that records the electrical activity of the heart. He asked if I had heart disease in my family, to which I replied “yes.” He asked if any family members experienced sudden death at a very young age. I froze, and said “no.” He then mentioned Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome (WPW), a condition I had never heard before. The doctor explained that people with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome have an extra pathway to their hearts that may cause a very rapid heart rate. The most severe form of a rapid heartbeat is ventricular fibrillation, which can rapidly lead to shock, and requires emergency treatment. I couldn’t tell you how the rest of our conversation progressed. I thought about the fact that it was February, the month to celebrate Alpha Phi Foundation’s philanthropic focus: women’s heart health. In one short week, we would raise funds and awareness for the Foundation with a male beauty pageant. We always talked about being heart healthy in meetings and at events and how to find out if you’re at risk. And now, I wasn’t just talking about our philanthropy…I was living it.

A few days later, I sat in the cardiologist’s office at the University of Maryland in Baltimore. They would perform a diagnostic electrophysiology procedure to see if I had WPW. Even though it was 7 a.m., sisters sent their thoughts via text message asking me to keep them updated. I knew regardless of the results of the test, I had a support system to get through it. Five hours later, I awoke to the nurses overhead. I experienced a wave of feelings when I found out the news. Everything was normal.

The following week, Alpha Phi hosted our male beauty pageant benefitting Alpha Phi Foundation. It was an emotional end to a whirlwind week. As I taught the contestants their pre-choreographed dance, I couldn’t help but look around at all my sisters and think how fortunate I was. Seeing the other side of Alpha Phi’s philanthropy is an experience I am so thankful for. It re-affirmed that joining Alpha Phi three years ago was one of the best decisions of my life. Through the support of my sisters and philanthropy, I now know I can get through anything—with heart.

Lauren Lamon is a collegiate member at Shippensburg (Theta Xi).

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