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When Columbus North sophomore Rahul Jha was having trouble with an accelerated heart rate this summer, his tennis coach knew exactly what he was going through.
Veteran Bull Dogs boys and girls coach Kendal Hammel has undergone two heart surgeries in the past year because of supraventricular tachycarida, or SVT.
SVT is a condition where a person’s heart occasionally beats extremely fast for a reason other than exercise, high fever or stress.
“I could work my butt off all day long teaching, and I would go home at nighttime, sit down in the chair to relax and maybe eat dinner and it would come on,” Hammel said. “Laying down and rolling over sometimes, I could feel it happen then, too.”
While the ablation surgeries have curtailed the SVT in Hammel, Jha still suffers from the condition from time to time.
In fact, it’s happened so often in the past year that he wasn’t going to play tennis this season. He was afraid if he started a match and an episode occurred, he might have to stop playing and forfeit the team point.
But after visiting Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Jha was cleared to play. He realized the episodes were not life-threatening and could be treated with medication.
“It bothered me so much, I was afraid to play,” Jha said. “We went and saw a doctor, and they said I shouldn’t worry and just pretend I’m normal and do all my activities like there’s nothing wrong. That’s why I decided to come back and see how it goes.”
At least in matches, Jha hasn’t had a problem this season. He is 4-0 with partner Aditya Mantri at No. 2 doubles for the Bull Dogs heading into Wednesday’s showdown with Columbus East.
But the 5-foot-8, 125-pound Jha, who said he has been affected by SVT a couple times a year since age 8 or 9, has seen his heart accelerate to around 200 beats per minute about 10 times in the past year, including once at practice.
“It happens because of adrenaline, like if I get too anxious or excited or nervous,” Jha said. “Whenever that happens, I have to immediately stop what I’m doing. It makes my heart pound, and I feel light-headed, like I’m going to pass out.”
“You lose all your energy,” Hammel said. “It’s like you’re running a marathon. You have nothing in you at all, and you’re just exhausted. I could walk up stairs, and I would be totally exhausted. It’s not a fun thing to deal with.”
Jha’s father, Prem, said doctors gave Rahul three options — medication, surgery or to do nothing. They are considering surgery over North’s fall break, after the season ends.
“When the heart is beating fast, that’s a problem for him,” Prem said. “Other than that, everything is pretty normal.
“(Doctors) told me no matter how many times it happens to him, it’s completely harmless in the short term,” he said. “In the long term, it won’t effect the heart in any way negatively.”
For that reason, Prem had no problem allowing Rahul to continue playing tennis.
“There’s no concern at all,” Prem said. “When it happens, I don’t have to take him to the ER, no need to call 911, nothing. He can sit down for a few minutes and then go back and play again.”
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