An equestrian fell off her horse and learned she had heart failure at age 20. Now she's working in the clinic that saved her life.
- Avery Jaster started feeling dizzy and having chest pains when she was 17 years old.
- She fainted and fell off of her horse one day, leading to a diagnosis of heart failure.
Avery Jaster dreamed of becoming a professional equestrian, but her heart had other plans.
She told Insider that she began to have episodes where she would feel dizzy and sometimes short of breath when she was 17 years old, and her symptoms got worse with time. Doctors in her home state of Michigan diagnosed her with low blood pressure, but didn't explain why it was happening. She moved to Texas for college in 2019, and began seeing a cardiologist there.
One day while she was riding a horse in Summer 2020, she felt her heart begin to race and the dizziness set in. The next thing she knew, she was on the ground.
While she was fortunately uninjured, Jaster said the incident made her realize that riding horses competitively was no longer a sustainable career choice.
"It didn't cause me to lose any confidence, but I did realize that this is probably turning into a bit of a bigger issue if it is causing me to fall off my horse," she said.
She was diagnosed with heart failure in 2021
Jaster was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation — an irregular and often rapid heartbeat — affecting both the upper and lower chambers of her heart. She said her dad had also been diagnosed with an upper chamber heart arrhythmia in the past, which might point to a genetic cause.
Jaster said she had seven ablation procedures, where a catheter was inserted into her leg and used to apply heat to areas of damaged heart muscle, between 2019 and 2022. The procedures were basically like getting moles burned off, she said — except those moles were on her heart, and they were causing it to beat out of time. But new problem areas kept appearing.
Heart arrhythmias are either caused by an electrical issue or underlying damage to the muscle (cardiomyopathy), which can lead to heart failure.
Jaster said she was diagnosed with heart failure in April 2021, when she was just 20 years old. At the time, she said she was gaining up to seven pounds of fluid daily as her heart struggled to pump blood.
"It kind of feels like you are breathing in saltwater," she said. "For me, I still had the mental energy. I still had the drive to go do things and couldn't, so it would get really frustrating."
Although Jaster described her diagnosis and subsequent hospitalization as a "low point," getting admitted was an important step on her way to a long-term solution.
Now she's working in the clinic that saved her life
Jaster began seeing Dr. Dale Yoo, a cardiologist in McKinney, Texas, in January 2021. Yoo specializes in heart rhythm troubles, which can be monitored and corrected with various medical devices.
After her first hospitalization, Yoo suggested implanting a heart monitor the size of a paperclip to help keep Jaster out of the hospital going forward. The sensor, called CardioMEMS, can detect changes in pressure before she starts to show physical symptoms of heart failure.
She also has an internal defibrillator, which can detect an irregular heartbeat and reset it with an electric shock.
Now 22, Jaster is finishing her degree in health sciences and working in Yoo's clinic. She said she helps oversee patients who are implanted with the same device that she uses to monitor her own heart.
"Seeing somebody young in front of them, who has been through something very similar to what they had and then has this device and it's working well for them, typically it gives them a sense of security," she said.
And in her free time between school and her clinic work, Jaster has gotten back to riding horses for fun.
- RBI bars JM Financial Products from financing against shares, debentures
- UP govt approves proposal for formation of Uttar Pradesh State Capital Region on lines of NCR
- Popular Vehicles and Services to float IPO on March 12
- Nothing Phone (2a) smartphone debuts in India, priced starting at ₹23,999
- New variant of H5N1 bird flu spreads to marine mammals, heightening concerns for human transmission