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Finishing the Race: Carly’s Story

“Sibley is a very special place to me and I am thrilled to have been able to contribute to their amazing team.”

At my two week old checkup the doctor heard a murmur and sent me to a cardiologist to get it checked out. My mom took me to my appointment, assuming that it would be a harmless murmur and we would be on our way. However, just a few minutes into the echo the technician had pulled several doctors into the room to take a look. That’s when she knew something wasn’t quite right. It was determined that I was born with a thickened heart muscle between two chambers of my heart.

Flash forward to 2009. After relocating from Chicago to Philadelphia, Philadelphia to Cincinnati, and finally Cincinnati to Atlanta, I was sent to Dr. Mahle at Sibley by my previous cardiologist at Cincinnati Children’s. I had been extremely fortunate that I had yet to have any symptoms associated with my thickened heart muscle. With no obstruction, I was just required to have follow up appointments once a year. For precautionary reasons I couldn’t participate in strenuous sports or activities, but that never really bothered me as I still found plenty of other hobbies to get involved in.

My yearly checkups continued. At age 16 Dr. Mahle sent me to Dr. Strieper, who at the time specialized in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is a condition in which the heart muscle is thickened, however it is often associated with many symptoms that I had never experienced. Once again, it was a blessing that at this point in my life I had never had any symptoms or issues with my condition. Because of this, Dr. Strieper wanted to do a series of tests to determine the potential risks associated with my thickened heart muscle.

After a stress test, genetic testing, and a cardiac MRI, Dr. Strieper, in consultation with many other Sibley doctors, determined that although I did have a thick muscle, my associated risks were low. The stress test determined that I was not strong enough to work my heart up to a dangerous rate. The genetic testing and MRI determined that what I have is a birth defect rather than a genetically inherited disease that can worsen over time. I am so thankful that Sibley had access to the technology to make this discovery.

At this point I was a sophomore in high school. My twin sister, Ellie, along with my entire friend group, ran cross country. Due to my previous limitations, I had never participated, but was always there to cheer them on from the sidelines. Thanks to the extensive tests, it was determined that it was safe for me to participate in strenuous sports. With the encouragement of my family and friends I joined the cross country team at the start of my junior year of high school. I was extremely nervous considering I had never even ran a mile, but I had the most incredible feeling running across that finish line at the end of my first race that season. Without Sibley I would never have been able to experience crossing that finish line with my sister.

In 2017, Dr. Strieper helped me begin my transition to an adult cardiologist, as she was retiring and I was almost 21 and no longer a pediatric patient. Dr. Strieper made my transition to Emory a breeze. She contacted my new cardiologist and made sure he understood my situation so that I would not have to repeat the process and testing I had done at Sibley that led to the determination of my unique case.

Now I am a rising senior at Auburn University majoring in Marketing. This summer I had the incredible opportunity to intern with Sibley’s Marketing Department. I have been able to interact with several Sibley doctors as well as patient families. During my time here I went and visited Dr. Mahle. Sibley is a very special place to me and I am thrilled to have been able to contribute to their amazing team.

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