GREENBRIER, Ark. – The shocking scene that played out on live TV of Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin suffering a cardiac arrest was close to a real-life scare for a Greenbrier family.
It all began with a love for football. “From a young age I always had a football in my hand, throwing it, watching NFL games with my dad,” former football player Tanner Vinacco said.
Everything changed when Vinacco began his ninth-grade football season.
“I didn’t know what was going on at first, my heart just started going real fast and it felt like I couldn’t breathe,” Vinacco said.
Almost three years later, Vinacco said his episodes went from being seconds long, to minutes.
He said he went to the doctor and was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson’s Syndrome.
Wolff-Parkinson’s Syndrome is a condition that can cause an abnormal heartbeat. It can cause dizziness, shortness of breath, and even passing out.
Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Don Steely of Conway Regional explained what Wolff-Parkinson’s Syndrome is.
“It’s an extra wiring pathway in the heart, so it sort of, at a basic level, it will give you a two for one beat, so all of a sudden your heart goes from 75 beats per minute to 200 or more,” Interventional Cardiologist at Conway Regional Dr. Don Steely said.
“When I sat down and really thought about it, like at any moment during those episodes I could’ve just dropped out, so it was definitely a reality check that it was more than sports,” Vinacco said.
“I’ve seen maybe including my time as a pediatric resident at children’s, maybe 6 patients, it is very rare,” Steely said.
This syndrome can hinder people that have it from playing sports.
“You are not really allowed to do anything athletic because of the risk of your heart rate going up, just increases the chance of going into those episodes, and then just going into cardiac arrest,” Vinacco said.
Fortunately, he was able to get it surgically fixed and finish out his senior football season, overcoming a massive mental hurdle.
“Once I got over that mental obstacle, it was great to be back on the team and be able to finish out the season,” Vinacco said.
Vinacco said he is very thankful they were able to catch this syndrome and be able to live a happy and healthy life.
He encourages everyone to speak up if you are feeling off, because it could be more than what you think.