Michael’s Story

High School Senior Beats Myocarditis

Michael’s Flu-Like Symptoms Turned Into the Unexpected

Michael BovaIt was mid June of 2014 and I had been feeling some flu like symptoms for a few days (cough, fatigue, congestion, high fever). I walked down the stairs at my parents home, became dizzy and fell. My bedroom was only 50 feet away from where I was. I was able to get to my room and collapsed on the floor. I was dizzy and tired. I woke up later and crawled up onto my bed to sleep. After waking up I was experiencing pain in my back, which I later found out, was my lungs filling up with fluid. I explained what had occurred to my parents and they were both concerned, however, I thought that I was feeling better and there was no need to visit the doctor.

The next day I woke up feeling better and decided to drive a half hour to a store in Fredonia, NY to buy some tickets for a concert. On my way back into town my legs started feeling tingly and began to shake. Once I pulled into town I started feeling odd. I decided to pull into a parking lot so that I could contact my mom and tell her what was going on. Before I could even do that I had lost complete vision. It was as if I was staring at the sun for too long, no matter where I looked I could not see a single thing, just a very bright white light. I stopped my car and attempted to get out but once the door opened I immediately fell out, laying there with my arms open and facing the sky. I could hear in the distance Sir!? Sir!? Are you alright?! Dont worry help is on the way! Within a few minutes I hear fire trucks, ambulances, and police sirens rushing to me. I regained my ability to see and move. I then called my mom to explain what had happened but my words were mumbled and I dropped my phone ending the call. She knew something was wrong and immediately went out to find me. Luckily, she saw the emergency response units and followed them to me.

I was taken to my local hospital in Jamestown, NY. I was in the ER for approximately 8 hours, then transferred to a regular room. I was lying in a hospital bed and wondering what is wrong with me. I was given many fluids because I was extremely dehydrated and was given nebulizer treatment since I could barely breath. I was experiencing diarrhea as well as very dark/amber colored urine.

The next day, one of our family friends who is a great physician at the hospital, arranged for me to be transferred to Buffalo Childrens Hospital. I was flown by helicopter to Buffalo Childrens Hospital. I can remember the team being on the phone with my mother giving status updates on my condition. Fortunately, I made it to the hospital and was admitted to the pediatric ICU, where I remained for about 3 weeks. Initially when I was there, they didnt know what was wrong with me. What they knew was that my body was shutting down fast. I was coughing up a lot of blood. I could barely breath, and was extremely exhausted. Previously, before all this had occurred, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and was on average running high around 150/100. Now, my blood pressure was 50/30 and I had an ejection fraction of 7%. I was in heart failure and had many medications pumped into me, such as Milrinone to help my heart pump. Things were not looking so promising.

My parents never left my side, they slept at the hospital in chairs by my bedside, and would periodically leave the room to go cry. I was acknowledging that I was dying. Im 17, athletic, a senior in high school, and Im dying. I didnt know what to think. All I could do at this point was pray.

The following day, I was being prepped and evaluated for a heart transplant to take place at UPMC in Pittsburgh. Once everyone understood how serious I was, all my friends and family came to see me. In my eyes, it was them saying their goodbyes. The Principles from my school and even my football coaches came to see me. The doctors at Buffalo Childrens organized with my principle to have me wheeled into a private conference room where my family all sat to have me Face Time my graduation from Southwestern Central School. My cap and gown was brought to me and I got to see everyone on a big screen. Sure it wasnt the same but it was a moment I will never forget. All my classmates and everyone in that auditorium had a white ribbon on for me, and a small picture of me pinned over their hearts. It was very moving to say the least. They also had a vigil for me that took place prior to graduation. Once I was brought back to my room I was exhausted and had to sleep.

The doctors were eventually able to conclude that I had Myocarditis and Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. My blood pressure eventually climbed back up to what was considered its normal state including my ejection fraction that shot up to 75%. Buffalo Childrens Hospital is considered a learning/research hospital, which consists of many medical students from the University at Buffalos medical school. I can still picture them as they stood in shock, flipping through all of their books and notes wondering how I could achieve such improved health just like that. It was a miracle in the eyes of everyone there. I know that many people who suffer from this disease do not make as good a recovery. However, I did, and I felt the need to share it with you.

Once released from the hospital I was given a victory lap in a wheel chair around the pediatric ICU. I was finally able to go home, healthy and alive. Myocarditis takes a very long time to recover from; I was better, however I was not 100%. When I came home I had plenty of fatigue, my strength was not what it used to be, I lost 30 pounds from being sick in the hospital, and my myocardium shows scarring from being previously enlarged. I now go once a year to my cardiologist to have an annual echocardiogram to make sure that things are still doing well.

To this day, the only feeling I get is a small shock/palpitation (difficult to describe) from time to time. This can occur when I am doing anything such as sitting, walking, and running. They are random, last less than a second, and is interpreted by my current physician to be common after experiencing such a tragic event in my body. The shock/pain that I am feeling is said to possibly be the muscle that was stretched out from when my heart was enlarged. I am currently taking blood pressure medication to deal with my high blood pressure as I previously stated, it is now at a healthy level and under control. The chances of me contracting Myocarditis again are said to be slim to zero, which puts my mind at ease. I am now a full-time college student at the University at Buffalo and I have been inspired to go into medical school for my MD so that I may understand this disease to a better extent and to save the lives of people who were put into the unfortunate position that I was once in. I hope that my story may have helped or inspired in some way. Thank you for reading.