Passing the Baton

As a proud mother, I brag about my children, including my son, Max, who died in 2005 from a hidden heart condition. There are many moms like me who can only embrace the memory of their child. Remember these moms as you receive homemade gifts, enjoy a family meal, or talk by phone with your kids. There’s a growing group on moms who are especially grateful to have their children alive. Their children had a hidden heart condition uncovered by our EKG screening. Their child’s heart condition was treated so they can celebrate Mother’s Day. Although I doubt they know it, I celebrate their children with them, too! These kids are incredible.​

Today I had the chance to speak with Chelsee Wilson and am overwhelmed by which of her many fascinating stories to start with. There’s the fact that she’s 4th in a lineup of 13 children. She has 4 jobs while a FT college student as well as co-captaining her track team (and heading to nationals in 1, but probably 3 events). She lives in a low-income Hispanic community and helps fill and manage their food pantry. She was selected for a leadership award by Northwestern Mutual Insurance and directed a charitable gift to our foundation. She has WPW, which suddenly seems like just a small footnote in her incredibly vibrant life.

But let’s start with where we intersect: finding WPW, her hidden heart condition. As a child, Chelsee bruised easily, broke a few bones, passed out, and had unusual muscle fatigue. Doctors thought she might have epilepsy, low blood sugar, or an auto-immune disorder. Despite treatment, her symptoms persisted. While at Grayslake North High School, her track coach recommended she participate in the Max Schewitz Foundation’s school-wide EKG screening saying, “What will it hurt? You might even get some answers.” He was right: Chelsee’s final diagnosis of Wolff Parkinson White was detected at our screening.  Like most kids with WPW, she normalized her symptoms, even though she would get 7-10 episodes of rapid heartbeats daily.  Surgery to fix Chelsee’s condition couldn’t be completed because of the location of the abnormality, so Chelsee is being monitored and when the time is right, her doctors have other life-saving options available for her. Meanwhile, she has techniques to monitor and reduce her heart rate. Her family, friends, coaches and teammates are in the know and she relies on them to help keep her safe while she leads her active life, often focused on helping others. What goes around comes around.

Chelsee learned about helping others as a child. “When you’re in a large family it’s not just the parents job to take on all the responsibility; everyone has to pitch in. My parents taught me that if your neighbor needs help, lend a hand. Even if you don’t have a lot, you have something to give.” What a beautiful gift she is to her parents and community. We are glad to have had a small role in helping a dynamo like Chelsee move forward. WPW is just one facet of her rich and inspiring story, one we know she will manage with one hand while reaching out her other hand to help someone in need.

Photo Credit: Christian Rasmussen