Former Wayne State Football Kicker and Kearney High Athlete Sam Simon suffers from a rare heart condition that prevents him from playing most sports now. Simon says the disease he has causes his heart to function erratically during physical activity. “Well I have a heart disease that’s called ARVD for short. It’s Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia/Cardiomyopathy. And it basically just affects the right ventricles of my heart, and basically develops like a scar tissue of that area. And so the electricity in my heart beats differently than it should and it can’t control itself sometimes so it basically just can’t pump correctly. So when I overwork myself it starts beating uncontrollably.”
Simon found out he had ARVD in December of 2015.
Simon says his heart first started acting up during a basketball game in 2012. “My first case started when I was about 2 years out of high school. I was playing basketball, and I went down, and like I started breathing heavy and I couldn’t control it. And I sat down and closed my eyes for what I thought was like 10 seconds. And apparently I was out having a seizure for about 3 minutes. And when I got to the hospital they ran plenty of tests on me and they couldn’t figure out exactly what it was. They thought it was basically something with my head. So they diagnosed me with epilepsy.”
Simon took epilepsy medication for about 1 1/2 to 2 years.
The situation worsened immediately after the 2015 football season. “Played the season without any issues, and then the day after the season ended I was playing basketball in the rec with some friends, and I felt the same symptoms that I did a couple years ago coming on. And it was way worse and intense it seemed like than the last time. And stupidly I decided to drive home, and I made it home thankfully where my Mom was actually home when she normally wouldn’t be. And I made it downstairs to my room, and I called her, and I was like hey I think I’m about to have a seizure I think. She came downstairs, and at that point I think I was basically passed out.”
Simon says once he got to the hospital his heart rate was getting over 330 beats a minute.
Doctors gave Simon a Defibrillator after thinking he might have ARVD, and Simon, who still kind of lived an active lifestyle at the time, was shocked after playing soccer. “I felt pretty comfortable, and I decided to play a game of soccer where I lasted about 3 minutes, 4 minutes into the game. And I started feeling lightheaded. And so I told my teammates I needed to sit down. And on my way to the bench I got shocked by my defibrillator that’s been planted in my chest for the first time. And I was like oh that’s kind of surprising. And then I sat down and I got my second shock, and it kind of freaked me out a little bit cause it was a little bit stronger than the first.
Simon says the Defibrillator shocked him 11 times in about a 3 minute span, causing him to be life flighted to Sioux City.
After finding out he had ARVD, Simon went to John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD for surgery. Simon says post surgery was tough and took its toll on him. “Once we got there they did confirm that I did have ARVD. And once I went into the surgery. The surgery went fine. And I was in recovery, and I was doing fine, and then for the next day I basically overdosed on the narcotics I was given. And my kidneys went into failure. The only time I was awake was to basically throw up, and yeah this lasted for about 2 full days where I couldn’t even get out of bed for anything.”
Simon says he was in Baltimore for almost 10 days.
His mother, Michele Meisenbach, found out about the hospital through a Mother on an ARVD Facebook Page.
Simon says he was devastated when he found out he would no longer be able to play competitive sports. “When I first heard that I would no longer be able to play sports like basketball and soccer, and other sports that I’ve played in my entire life like I still, just like this moment has troubles and came out that. Cause that’s like all I’ve really loved is sports. And yeah I can’t even describe the pain that I went through mentally as far as trying to recover from something like that.”
Simon says his family helped him through it, and he can still play Golf.
He adds he can still do things like throw the football around.
He’s a Sport Management Major at Wayne State and plans to stay involved in sports later in life.
Simon says Northeast Nebraska Sports Screenings is something he and his mom came up with. “Yeah my Mom and I started a nonprofit organization that’s basically going to give high school athletes free heart screenings going into athletics cause I went through I don’t know how many physicals in my life getting prepared for sports, and nothing was ever detected about my heart that could have been I think. And so we’re just trying to shed a little bit more light on our condition that’s affecting more people than you can even realize.”
Northeast Nebraska Sports Screenings has a Facebook Page.