Local athlete survives rare heart defect

Posted at: 01/09/2013 8:50 PM
By: Robin De Wind

After playing sports for most of her life, a local athlete had to go away to college to discover she had a life-threatening and rare congenital heart defect.

But what makes this story so interesting is the unique surgery she had, that will have her back playing the sport she loves.

“About 7th grade I realized something was wrong,” said Lauren Gerrie.

Irondequoit's Lauren Gerrie has been an athlete her whole life, and despite being an All Greater Rochester lacrosse player and Section V champion skier, at times she couldn't catch her breath.

“I would get out of breath easily and start wheezing and stuff. They thought I had athletes asthma. I had an inhaler, but it would never do anything,” said Gerrie.

But after earning a Division I scholarship to play lacrosse at the University of Denver, things changed.

“We had a run test for Denver and I'd been doing it all summer here, and I could do it, and then when I got to Denver, with the altitude, I couldn't even do half of it without having to stop because I couldn't breathe,” Gerrie said.
What Gerrie thought was an altitude change turned out to be a large hole at the top of the right side of her  heart that she had lived with her whole life.

“At first they thought the hole in my heart was smaller and in a different part of my heart. So they were going to do a procedure that was going in through my groin, they could close it up and I could be back playing lacrosse within five days. So when I found out I had to have open heart surgery, it was shocking,” she said.

A number of doctors told Gerrie open heart surgery was her only option, but then her roommate’s father told her about a less invasive surgery being performed at Mt Sinai Hospital in New York City by Dr. Khanh Nguyem.

“It's like an incision this big under my armpit. They collapsed by right lung and then they went in through there and did the surgery,” said Gerrie.

Three days later she was out of the hospital and two months into her recovery she is starting to get back to doing what she loves, without missing a beat.

“It's awesome. I mean, missing a whole year would have been hard, because I wouldn't have been able to get into anything, but now even if I do have to red shirt I can at least get back to things, play with the team and stuff. I think I was just very fortunate to be in the position where I could get tested out and looked at and found in the right time,” Gerrie said.
Lauren's recovery should take a full six months, but she will be able to participate with the team.