Saturday, March 13, 2010

Shaun White

Olympic Fever is over for the next 2 years. But there's something that I still need to say.

As many people know, Shaun White is the USA's halfpipe snowboarder who won the gold medal this year and in the 2006 Olympics as well. He's a young athlete, seems the picture of health. Yet what not everybody knows is that he was born with the same heart defect Gabby has, tetralogy of Fallot. He had 2 open heart surgeries before he was a year old. While he doesn't deny that he was born with this defect, he does state that he "had" a heart defect.

I spoke with Gabby's cardiologist about this a couple of years ago. I was impressed because I realized that much more was possible than I had realized. He stated that, while it was possible, there are some things that will always have to be followed by a cardiologist. So, is Shaun getting regular cardiac checks? If so, why isn't he more upfront about the medical monitoring that is necessary to be an athlete of his caliber with his heart history? A part of me wants to think that the team docs aren't letting him compete without additional medical clearance. Yet, I also know that many young adults with a CHD history are lost to follow-up. Once you have the surgery, you aren't "fixed for life." Nobody knows for sure how your heart will react several years down the line and after the heart changes with growth and increase in body size. CHD patients require good follow-up for life.

So here's my issue: Is Shaun White getting good, regular cardiology follow-ups? And if so, why does he not speak more about being a CHD survivor? He has shown us what CAN be done with a CHD history. I just wish he'd use his fame to educate the public more about the medical care that is necessary to do what he does.