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Teen’s Near Fatal Collapse Leads to Life-Saving Diagnosis

Teen’s Near Fatal Collapse Leads to Life-Saving Diagnosis
February 01, 2017

Nathan Miller, 15, has always been an active young man – playing soccer and running track for his high school. But that all changed last August when Nathan was running laps in gym class and collapsed. Immediately, Nathan’s gym teacher, Samuel Smith, ran to his rescue and started to perform CPR stabilizing the teen until the paramedics arrived.

The teen was transported to a nearby hospital where he recovered and underwent testing to determine if there was an underlying condition for why he collapsed. Nathan and his family were told that everything looked good and he was soon discharged home. Nathan’s mom, Shelley, still felt like she needed answers. “We left our first hospital without knowing the reason why Nathan collapsed. We needed to know the reason why this happened to him,” says Shelley.

That’s when Shelley found pediatric echocardiogram heart specialist Nina Gotteiner, MD, Program Director, Fetal/Neonatal Cardiology at Lurie Children’s, and an appointment for Nathan was scheduled.

Nathan’s echocardiogram, an ultrasound of the heart, provided him and his family with answers. Dr. Gotteiner diagnosed Nathan with congenital coronary artery, a defect in one or more of the coronary arteries of the heart present at birth that often results in sudden death in older children and adults. In October 2016, it was determined Nathan would need to undergo open-heart surgery with Carl Backer, MD, cardiovascular surgeon, to correct the problem.

Nathan with his four brothers, who were also tested for congenital coronary artery

Because Nathan’s collapse was so sudden and he was diagnosed with a congenital condition, it was urged that Nathan’s four brothers and parents have echocardiograms performed as well. Fortunately, no one else in the Miller family was found to have the condition.

Dr. Gottiner advises, “All children who faint or collapse while exercising should have a formal cardiac evaluation. Although congenital coronary artery issues are rare, if not identified, the condition can be associated with sudden death.” She continues, “I am so happy that Nathan’s congenital coronary issue was identified and treated so quickly. I expect Nathan will make a full recovery and be able to be active for a long time to come.”

“We are forever grateful for the quick action of Nathan’s coach, Sam, and for the care he received at Lurie Children’s,” says Shelley. “We hope Nathan’s story spreads awareness about the importance of knowing CPR and undetected heart conditions. It’s scary to think that the outcome could have been drastically different for Nathan.”

Pediatric Cardiology (Heart Center)

The Heart Center at Lurie Children’s provides the highest quality care for patients with the most complex and serious heart conditions. As the region’s largest children’s heart center, we care for more patients with cardiac conditions than any other hospital in Illinois. We use the most comprehensive heart evaluations and treatments to deliver high quality care from admission, to discharge, to follow-up. 

Coronary Artery Anomalies Program

The Coronary Artery Anomalies Program at Lurie Children’s is dedicated to the diagnosis and ongoing monitoring of children with coronary artery anomalies. These congenital coronary anomalies include:

  • Single coronary artery
  • Anomalous aortic origin of the coronary artery (AAOCA)
  • Anomalous left coronary artery arising from the pulmonary artery (ALCAPA)
  • Myocardial bridging