Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy survivor Alison Conklin. (Photo courtesy of Alison Conklin)
At 13, Alison Conklin passed out while playing in a basketball tournament. When she collapsed again during a competitive game of floor hockey, her mother took her to see a cardiologist.
An echocardiogram of Alison's heart showed the wall between the two bottom chambers of her heart was bigger than it should be. She was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
HCM causes heart walls to thicken, in turn becoming stiff and reducing the amount of blood taken in and pumped out to the body with each heartbeat. Fainting is a symptom of HCM, along with shortness of breath, abnormal heart rhythms and dizziness.
Frightening as that was, Alison had someone to help walk her through it: her mom, who also had HCM.
Then, five months later, everything changed.
"My mom and I were sitting in the kitchen," Alison said. "It was my first day at my first real job at the public library, and she said she didn't feel well, and she collapsed."
Alison had just taken a babysitting class at the hospital and learned CPR. She called 911 and started giving her mom chest compressions until paramedics arrived and took over.
"It was terrifying! You can take as many classes as you want, and whether you can actually implement these things in the heat of the moment, I tried," Alison said. "I was begging her to wake up."
At 42, Alison's mother did not survive that day in July 1994. And her grieving teenage daughter – who already was struggling with knowing she had HCM – just saw the condition kill her mom.
Alison Conklin (left) and her mom, Jude Dewhurst, in 1985. (Photo courtesy of Alison Conklin)
Alison continued to struggle with it.