Lindholm didn’t let heart condition hold him back
As a freshman basketball player, Rhett Lindholm thought sports were part of his future.
However, during some of his games, he noticed his heart started beating faster than normal.
“So I’d quit playing and that would slow down my heart rate,” said the recent Gothenburg High School graduate. “Then I’d be really tired.”A local doctor thought Lindholm’s heart was trying to catch up with his body and prescribed a heart monitor to wear during activities.
After the basketball season was over Lindholm had an electrocardiogram (EKG) test that checked the electrical activity of his heart.
Nothing serious was detected but Lindholm was advised to avoid high school sports until doctors could pinpoint the problem.
That meant the end of sports, at least for awhile.
Lindholm got a job and, as a sophomore, became involved in the school’s fine arts program, landing parts in the high school musical for three years as well as one-act play productions.
His senior year he went out for cross country with an admonition from his doctor to quit running when his heart started beating too fast.
The first meet of the season was on a stifling day and the mercury soared to 105 degrees when runners lined up to race at the Cozad Country Club.
“I was nervous so my heart rate started to climb,” Lindholm said. “After the first mile, an episode started and I became light-headed and was stumbling around, I about passed out.”
A golf cart whisked him to a waiting ambulance where it was discovered that Lindholm’s heart was beating 250 times a minute and his blood pressure was seriously high.
An average person’s maximum heart rate is about 200 beats per minute.
His next doctor’s visit was to a visiting heart specialist who monitored Lindholm’s EKG for the next three months.
In fact, during that time, Lindholm was cleared to run at the cross-country meet in Geneva as long as he wore a heart monitor.
It was after the Geneva meet, he said, when doctors discovered Lindholm had supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) which is a rapid heart rhythm of the upper heart chambers.
Lindholm described the condition as having an electrical signal that is like a race car traveling around a racetrack.
Surgery was recommended but, because of his pre-existing condition, the estimated $25,000 procedure wasn’t covered by his parents’ insurance.
Finally, in April, Lindholm got his own insurance policy through the Affordable Care Act.
On May 21, Lindholm had surgery at the Lincoln Heart Institute to correct the condition.
During the procedure, Lindholm said surgeons installed a catheter from his groin to his heart. They then shocked his heart to raise the rate so they could find the circuit that was causing the problem and burn it away.
They found the extra circuit, Lindholm said, but it was in the back of his heart so a second surgery was scheduled.
Surgeons also discovered that Lindholm had a hole in his heart.
“They said it was rare but not dangerous,” he said.
A second surgery, two weeks later, was scheduled.
“This one was more intense because they went through an artery and I had a chance of bleeding out,” Lindholm explained.
Once surgeons got to his heart, he said they found they couldn’t get to the problem circuit because the hole had closed and the circuit had burned itself away.
“They were in awe and called it ‘God’s miracle,’” he said. “They said there was no logical explanation.”
Because his heart condition disappeared, Lindholm said he doesn’t care how it happened.
Although he had to take it easy for five days after the surgery (no running or carrying more than five pounds), Lindholm did lace up his shoes and go running on the sixth day.
“It felt great and I didn’t have to worry. I could push myself,” he said.
In fact, Lindholm describes it as a freeing feeling, noting that he’s starting a new chapter in his life in many ways.
One way is that Lindholm will be the first in his family to go to college.
He’ll attend the University of Nebraska at Kearney to major in business management. Lindholm has also joined a fraternity.
These days, he sees his heart condition as a gift.
“Going into fine arts was a nice fall back after sports and I’d rather be who I am now than a jock,” Lindholm said.
By participating in musicals, music contests and one acts, Lindholm said he met friends for a lifetime.
“And it built me character wise,” he explained. “I can talk to people, introduce myself and theatre and music are passions I enjoy.”
Lindholm said he’s considering becoming involved in both of those passions while in college.