Paula Opheim

Age: 20
Save Date: 4/5/2004
Activity: While jogging

Paula was diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyapathy (HCM) when she was in the 8th grade. The disease is very prevalent in my father's family line as we have 12 family members who have it within three generations. Paula was active in soccer and swimming. At that time her cardiologist gave her the okay to continue sports, but by the time Paula was a sophomore playing high school soccer, she began to literally sit on the field in exhaustion.

In the spring of that same school year a local basketball athlete collapsed during a championship game and died. He was later diagnosed with HCM, which had been misdiagnosed as asthma. As a concerned mother who has the disease as well, I consulted with my cardiologist and he decided to pull Paula from all competitive sports but had given her the okay to jog one mile a day.

Paula was finishing her second year at Purdue University in the school of Pharmacy when she had her arrest. She began her day by waking early and jogging the half mile to the workout facility. All she remembers of that morning is getting up and putting her hair in a ponytail.

She was crossing the street to the facility when her heart went into fibrillation. She stumbled several times before she finally collapsed on the street. A university police officer happened to be driving the back streets that early morning and saw her stumbling and finally collapsing. He called his partner who happened to be right around the corner. She reached Paula and began CPR when she could not find a pulse. He then called the paramedics who were no more than 3 minutes away. They arrived with an AED and shocked her heart once, which gave her life back to her as her heart began to beat in normal rhythms again. Because of the swift response of all present, Paula had no side effects or brain damage.

As Paula's parents we cannot be grateful enough for the technology of today and the swift knowledgeable medical assistance that has saved our daughter! After receiving an internal device to monitor her heart at all times and learning to live with a minimal amount of physical activity, Paula is now close to graduating and becoming a productive citizen for our medical community! I have personally lost two aunts, one uncle, my father, and recently, my 14 year old second cousin to HCM. The more we learn, the more we participate, the more we communicate and the more we care. That is how we keep saving more and more lives.

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