Parents issue warning after misdiagnosis almost costs teen her l -

Parents issue warning after misdiagnosis almost costs teen her life

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Elizabeth Stallings. Credit: Stallings family Elizabeth Stallings. Credit: Stallings family
ST. LOUIS, Mo. ( -

Elizabeth Stallings, 17, loves music, animals, and swimming. Over the years, Elizabeth has won a wall full of medals and ribbons but about two years ago she and her parents noticed something was wrong when she was swimming. 

"She just started complaining about her breath and not being able to catch her breath," said her mother, Cathy Stallings.

They took Elizabeth to the doctor and were told the girl was suffering from a condition called activity-induced asthma, brought on by the swimming. They got her an inhaler but on the first day of junior year, Elizabeth and her family found out her condition was much worse. 

"I was wringing wet with sweat and my heart was pounding," Elizabeth said. 

She was in cardiac arrest.

New tests showed that what Elizabeth really had was arthmegenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, a condition in which healthy heart tissue turns into useless scar tissue with exertion, such as swimming. In other words, Elizabeth's heart was hardening. The condition is progressive, and if not treated, is fatal. 

Doctors determined the only thing that could save Elizabeth was a heart transplant but there are a large number of patients waiting for hearts, and doctors say it is especially hard to find donor hearts for children and teenagers because parents often hesitate to donate their son's or daughter's organs. Even Elizabeth's own mother admits she would not have considered it before her daughter became sick. 

"I just had a bad vibe about it, but now I know how important it is," she said.

In late October, Elizabeth's condition worsened and she was admitted to the hospital and moved up on the priority list. Then, on October 31, they all got the news they so desperately wanted, a donor heart was available. The transplant took six hours and the initial outlook is extremely good. 

Doctors are saying she could even be back in the pool and swimming in just a couple of months. 

Elizabeth has always said she wants to know whose heart she received, so she can thank the family. 

"What she just keeps saying to me is she is just so grateful to the donor family," her mother said. 

The organ donor information is confidential, at least, for now.  

Elizabeth's family is encouraging everyone who hears their story to seriously consider becoming organ donors and, even though the decision is painful, to consider donating their children's organs.

To help the family's medical funds, click here.

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