It was a normal day in Adrienne Hergert’s fourth grade PE class at Reinhardt Elementary in Rockwall, Texas. Adrienne planned the day’s lesson around jumping rope, but before class began, a fire alarm went off and everyone quickly exited the building.
After they returned, Jackson Pigott’s best friend, also named Jaxon (with an x), asked Ms. Hergert to feel his friend’s heart. She had previously taught her students where to find their hearts and what a normal heartbeat should feel like. And since they had not yet begun exercising, Adrienne was shocked to discover Jackson’s heart pounding rapidly in his chest.
Jackson was calm and aware of his surroundings. He was neither pale nor sweating, and he wasn’t complaining of any pain. Adrienne knew his pulse rate was far too fast, so despite Jackson’s protests, she persuaded him to take trip to the nurse’s station down the hall. There, a quick blood pressure and pulse check compelled the nurse to call an ambulance. Jackson was immediately transported to Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, where he was admitted upon arrival.
Over the next few hours, and then days, doctors performed a series of tests, and five days later Jackson went into the operating room for surgery. He was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome, which is a condition that often remains hidden or asymptomatic, but carries a risk of sudden cardiac death. WPW is caused by abnormalities in the electrical system between the atria and ventricles in the heart, often resulting in a unique type of tachycardia, or faster than normal heart rate. Jackson’s condition came as a complete shock to his mother, who had no previous knowledge of any family history of heart disease.
Knowing your body and listening to your heart is critical when it comes to cardiovascular disease. Every second counts, and thanks to the quick action of all involved, Jackson was at the hospital within 30 minutes of his first symptom. He is now a happy, active fifth grader. He has no restrictions and is currently not on any medication for his heart. In March, after two surgeries, is doctors cleared him and in April, Reinhardt Elementary held a Jump Rope for Heart celebration in his honor. The school raised over $9,000 -- nearly twice as much as they raised the year before.
Thank you to everyone who played a part in this survival story – and to everyone who helps raise funds to support the AHA’s life-saving mission!