Heart condition can’t hold back Carmel swimmer

Patient Stories |

02/19/2024

Addyweb11

Her racing heart threatened to keep her out of the pool, but after being treated for SVT at Riley, Addy Czarnecki placed in the top 10 in two events at the state swim competition last weekend, propelling the Carmel girls swim team to its 38th straight title.

By Maureen Gilmer, Riley Children’s Health senior writer, mgilmer1@iuhealth.org

Two years ago, Addyson Czarnecki wondered if she would ever catch back up with her teammates on the Carmel High School swim team and Carmel Swim Club.

The teen had undergone two ablation procedures at Riley Hospital for Children after she was diagnosed with SVT – supraventricular tachycardia – an irregular or fast heartbeat.

The first procedure was in December of 2021, the second in July 2022.

Before that, her racing heart had made her feel winded, weak and dizzy sometimes when she swam. Addy had considered quitting the sport she had loved for as long as she could remember.

The “episodes,” as she called them, weren’t stress-related, and they weren’t all in her head. She knew it, and her parents knew it. Thankfully, her team at Riley knew it, too.

After being diagnosed with SVT at Riley and treated by a cardiology team that included Dr. Mark Ayers and nurse practitioners Dana Hartman and Jennifer Grossi, Addy jumped back in the pool and clawed her way back to the top.

Last weekend, the high school junior helped her high school team clinch its 38th consecutive state swim championship, a streak longer than any other high school team in the country.

For the first time, Addy competed in her own events at state this year – the 100-meter breaststroke and the 100-meter freestyle. She placed ninth in the breaststroke and 10th in freestyle.

“It was really exciting to score points for my team,” the teen said, adding that the 100-meter freestyle is not typically her event, but she worked hard to shave off time over the season, and it paid off.

Addy is a distance swimmer, not typically a sprinter, said her mom, Amy. So that made it even more impressive to see how well she performed at state.

The high school junior has committed to swim for Ball State University after graduation next year, and she has already decided to study nursing at BSU.

The past two-plus years have helped bring her future into focus.

“I knew I wanted to go into something medical, but my experience at Riley really sealed the deal on becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner, hopefully at Riley.”

She has NPs Hartman and Grossi to thank for that clarity.

“It would have been easy perhaps to dismiss Addy’s symptoms at first, blaming them on the anxiety and stress that comes with being a high-achieving teenage athlete,” Hartman said in an earlier interview.

That can happen all too often for female patients in general, she said, when providers don’t take the time to really listen to their patient.

Dr. Ayers, a swim dad and former pediatric heart patient himself, has let Addy know he will do whatever he can to support her interest in a medical career, even offering to let her shadow at Riley next summer after she turns 18.

Later this summer, she will return to the hospital to have a cardiac recording device removed, and then she’ll no longer need to be seen regularly for heart appointments.

“She can finally feel like she’s done, that she doesn’t have to have an app open on her phone 24-7 for the monitor,” Amy Czarnecki said. “She can walk through metal detectors.”

“I won’t have to get patted down at the airport,” Addy chimed in. “I can’t wait for this thing to be out.”

Now that she is on the other side of this diagnosis that dates back to her freshman year in high school, Addy said she can almost put it out of her mind.

“That was a whole year of my life that set me back,” she said. “In my sophomore year, I spent my entire season trying to catch back up to where I was. So, junior season has just been amazing. I’m no longer playing catch-up. I get to see all the work pay off. It’s exciting, and I don’t even believe sometimes that it happened.”

To see her daughter once again flourishing in the pool means everything to Amy, and she credits Riley for showing Addy the way back.

“As she gets older, I think the thing that strikes us the most with going through this experience is that so many people, especially women, don’t get diagnosed quickly because it’s often thought of as anxiety,” Amy said.

That never happened at Riley, she said.

“Trust your instincts. Don’t let somebody tell you it’s not real.”

Photos submitted and by JG.FILMZ

Previous stories:

A teenager’s desperate plea: “Please don’t give up” - A Carmel High School swimmer was grieving the loss of her passion until a Riley team corrected the heart condition that threatened to keep her out of the pool.

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Mark D. Ayers, MD

Mark D. Ayers, MD

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Jennifer A. Grossi, NP

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Dana M. Hartman, NP, MSN

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