Claire Birkholz started team swimming when she was seven. When she was nine, her first winter swim team practice turned out to be her last.
“It was the last ten minutes of swim team practice everything changed. My husband saw a lifeguard rescuing Claire from the pool, and he and the swim coaches began administering CPR,” said Christy Birkholz.
Claire doesn't remember anything from that night in September 2011. Her dad and mom will never forget it.
Claire had a sudden cardiac arrhythmia and fainted in the pool.
"To see your daughter on a ventilator, I mean, I didn't realize you could have IVs in all the places she had IVs,” said Claire.
Claire was diagnosed with Long QT Syndrome. It's a heart rhythm disorder that can potentially cause fast, chaotic heartbeats. These rapid heartbeats may trigger a sudden fainting spell or seizure, and in some cases, death.
Claire spent three weeks at Nationwide Children's Hospital, including a brief stay in intensive care.
Dr. Naomi Kersetz implanted an internal cardiac defibrillator in Claire.
“It's like wearing a seatbelt in a car, it's always there it's always watching like if there is a car accident or shock the heart back to a normal rhythm,” said Kersetz.
Genetic testing revealed Claire's father has the gene for the heart defect. Her oldest brother does not have Long QT.
The Birkholz family advocates for CPR training and Automated External Defibrillators or AEDs in school, with people trained to use them.
The Birkholz family will be among the featured speakers at the 7th Annual International SADS (Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndromes) Foundation Conference on Preventing Sudden Cardiac Death in the Young, which is taking place in Columbus this weekend.