About two years ago, Sarah Beth Sheridan, an 18-year-old high school senior and competitive cheerleader at Gray Collegiate Academy in West Columbia, began having bad headaches, rapid heartbeats and passing out spells. She visited several doctors who attributed her symptoms to general anxiety.
One day last October, Sarah Beth noticed the rapid heartbeats were beginning to come more often and last longer. “One minute turned into two minutes, then three minutes, then four minutes,” she said. She ran downstairs to her mother, Elizabeth “Libby” Sheridan, a board-certified pediatric critical care nurse.
Libby listened to her heart, looked at her and asked, “Does this happen a lot?” Sarah Beth responded it was happening about once a day. Libby said Sarah Beth’s heart was beating about 200 beats per minute. “The worst part is that she heard it beat really fast then it stopped for a split second and then started again. It never slowed down – it just stopped,” said Sarah Beth.
Libby and Sarah Beth visited Richard Edelson, MD, a cardiologist with Palmetto Health-USC Cardiology. Edelson planned to place a Holter monitor on Sarah Beth to monitor her, but once he took one look at her electrocardiogram (EKG) results, he immediately knew she had Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome, a rare congenital heart defect that causes an extra electrical pathway between the heart’s upper and lower chambers, resulting in a rapid heartbeat. WPW syndrome typically doesn’t show symptoms until age 13 or 14.
“I never thought I’d have anything wrong with my heart. I’m 18, I eat pretty healthy for an 18-year-old. I exercise a lot – about one to two times a day, so there’s no way that there could be something wrong with my heart,” she said. “If there was something wrong, I’d know.”
Edelson immediately contacted Sultan Siddique, MD, cardiac electrophysiologist with Palmetto Health-USC Cardiology. Because Sarah Beth is a competitive cheerleader, Siddique recommended she have the first available surgery.
Siddique informed Sarah Beth that because of her symptoms she was at risk for sudden cardiac arrest during exertion and forbid her from cheering until it could be corrected. On Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018, Dr. Siddique performed an ablation—a procedure that corrects heart rhythm problems by scarring or destroying tissues in the heart that triggers or sustains an abnormal heart rhythm—and successfully cured Sarah Beth of WPW.
Sarah Beth realizes how easily this could have been a tragedy. This month, she was one of five women selected as the face of the Midlands Go Red for Women campaign for American Heart Month. She continues to speak on the importance of encouraging student athletes to have EKG testing done. Sarah Beth recently signed a letter of intent and will attend Southern Virginia University in the fall on a cheerleading scholarship.