“I remember waking up thinking, ‘What is going on?’ I could see the panic in everyone’s eyes,” says Sarah.
She was discharged from a local hospital with few answers on what might have caused the cardiac event.
She resumed her senior year classes but needed medical clearance before returning to play with her Division I team, and was referred to the sports cardiology program at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center.
“Our motto is ‘Leave no stone unturned,’” says her cardiologist, Dr. Sonia Tolani, co-director of the Women’s Heart Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center and an assistant professor at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.
“Dr. Tolani insisted on checking every single little box before making the final call,” Sarah says.
A coronary CT scan revealed what caused Sarah’s heart to stop: a rare congenital heart defect that makes it difficult for oxygenated blood to get to the heart, anomalous left coronary artery from the pulmonary artery, or ALCAPA, which occurs in one in 300,000 babies. Typically, it’s discovered in the first year of life, and of those diagnosed late in life, 90% do not survive.
Sarah needed open-heart surgery right away.