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Running to the rhythm of their hearts

When Natasha Boyle and her five-year-old son Isaac line up for the start of the Fitbit Family 5km challenge at this year’s ASB Auckland Marathon on 28 October, they’ll be wearing their hearts on their sleeves – as Heart Racers raising money for the Heart Foundation.

Natasha Boyle and her son Isaac

Both Natasha and Isaac have Long QT Syndrome Type-2 – a heart condition which affects the heart’s rhythm and electrical activity. The condition can be hereditary, which is the case for Natasha and Isaac – Natasha’s mother also had the same condition, and died from it when Natasha was a child.

Natasha, a 29 year-old teacher’s aide, started having several seizures on a daily basis and blackouts ten years ago. Her dad recognised her symptoms as being similar to her mum’s and knew something wasn’t right.

It took months of seizures and being in and out of hospital, before the South Aucklander’s condition was finally confirmed by a cardiologist as Long QT Syndrome Type-2 – a potentially fatal, but treatable condition, which causes fast and irregular heartbeats and fainting spells. She was prescribed beta blockers which she’ll need to take for the rest of her life.

At the time, Natasha was drinking energy drinks on a regular basis – but she immediately kicked the habit when told energy drinks could exacerbate her heart condition. Nowadays, she keeps her caffeine intake to a morning coffee.

A few years following her diagnosis, Natasha collapsed – which she says felt like a near death experience.

“I wasn’t feeling well, sat down and started having a seizure and frothing at the mouth. I stopped breathing. I had chest pains and numbness in my left arm afterwards,” says Natasha. 

This event led to her having a cardioverter-defibrillator device implanted to help correct her heart rhythm, which she says has improved her quality of life.

When Isaac was born, Natasha was “devastated” to find out that he too has Long QT Syndrome Type-2.

“They did an ECG since it’s hereditary. I felt really protective and worried at the same time.”

Thankfully, son Isaac's heart condition isn't as severe as Natasha’s, and it’s not predicted to worsen as he gets older.

Natasha wants to live as normal a life as possible, and part of this is running 5km at the ASB Auckland Marathon together with Isaac. At school, Natasha was one of the fastest runners and she misses the freedom of being able to run like she used too.

“Isaac and I are going for runs when we can fit in time. We’re off to a steady start, but will be doing a lot more in the holidays just before the marathon.”

Natasha and Isaac will be running as Heart Racers – to raise money for the Heart Foundation.

“I decided to this because of everything we have been through and all the support I have received from the Heart Foundation. I have so much passion for this cause. The money raised could go a long way like helping to fund cutting-edge heart research, specialist training for cardiologists, as well as education and prevention programmes.”