Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome

It was a ten o’clock on a warm July evening. I had been called from the campfire bowl to the camp office up the hill where I helped a homesick camper and was now on my return trip. If I hurried I could be back in time for the announcements.

I slowed at the bottom of the first hill. Somehow, unlike everyone else, I hadn’t adjusted to the elevation even after two months.

It was dark and I didn’t want to get disoriented. I lined myself up with the pathway, noting the lights along the way. I stared at the first one, the largest, and started running again toward it. Somehow, the closer I got to the light, the smaller it looked. As I was trying to explain to myself how this could be, the light narrowed and dimmed, disappearing from my vision. I felt my heart racing and tried to calm my nerves. But this was different. I wasn’t nervous or that tired, but my heartbeat felt strange.

The lights wouldn’t have gone out before all of the staff was back from campfire. I convinced myself I must have taken longer than I thought so everyone must already be in bed. I turned around, deciding I would ask my roommate about the announcements later.

As I turned, I scratched my face on a tree branch. I couldn’t see anything; it was completely dark. All I could do was hold my hands out in front of me and feel my way along. But something wasn’t right. The open path that had been behind me wasn’t there. There were trees all around me, every way I turned, and I couldn’t get out. I could barely move a foot in any direction. I was tired and confused and my heart continued to beat erratically.

The clinic lights and bathroom lights should have still been on and visible from where I was. Where were those lights? I spun in a few circles trying to find any hint of where I had ended up. Nothing was familiar.

By this point tears were streaming down my face. It didn’t make any sense. I couldn’t get out of the circle of trees holding me in. I made one more effort, pushing with all my strength in each direction. I yelled out to see if anyone was near. It felt as though the sound died inches from my face. What was going on?

I sat down on the bark chip covered ground in failure and closed my eyes. I would sleep here and find my way back in the morning. Or would I?

Then I saw a glimmer of light through my closed eyelids. As I opened my eyes, I looked out across an open landscape of the lake and noticed I was sitting on a bench, not the rough ground I had sat down on.

Shaking, I stood up and turned, sure enough, the light was shining brightly, illuminating the pathway down the hill. As my heart regained a normal beat, I made my way down the open, lighted pathway and joined the staff at the bottom. I had just missed the announcements.

When I shared my story with friends, they told me I was dehydrated and to drink more. So, the next time it happened, I didn’t even think to tell anyone. It wasn’t until a few months later that I was able to put a name to my symptoms. Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome. Very few people have ever heard of it, and a few months ago I was the same way. It is valuable to know though, so that if you have symptoms or know someone who does, you don’t wait. I now know what it means and how it affects one’s life as I have experienced what it really means, not just the dictionary definition.

So started the speech my daughter, Ashley, gave at school yesterday. She spoke from experience, having recently been diagnosed with WPW syndrome. We are truly blessed that Ashley discovered her condition in a sports physical before the basketball season started and that, thanks to the miracles of modern medicine, she has it no more.