- Avery Jaster started feeling dizzy and having chest pains when she was 17 years old.
- He passed out and fell off his horse one day, leading to a diagnosis of heart failure.
- No longer a competitive equestrian, she has found a new passion for cardiology.
Avery Jaster dreamed of becoming a professional equestrian, but her heart had other plans.
She told Insider that she started having bouts where she felt dizzy and sometimes short of breath when she was 17, and her symptoms worsened over time. Doctors in her home state of Michigan diagnosed her with low blood pressure, but did not explain why it happened. She moved to Texas for college in 2019 and started seeing a cardiologist there.
One day while riding a horse in the summer of 2020, she felt her heart start to race and she felt dizzy. The next thing she knew, he was on the ground.
While she was thankfully not injured, Jaster said the incident made her realize that competitive horseback riding was no longer a sustainable career option.
“It didn’t make me lose confidence, but I did realize that this is probably becoming a bit of a bigger problem if it’s making me fall off the horse,” he said.
He was diagnosed with heart failure in 2021.
Jaster was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation — an irregular and often rapid heartbeat that affects both the upper and lower chambers of your heart. She said her father had also been diagnosed with an upper chamber heart arrhythmia in the past, which could indicate a genetic cause.
Jaster said he had seven ablation procedures, in which a catheter was inserted into his leg and used to apply heat to areas of damaged heart muscle, between 2019 and 2022. The procedures were basically like burning moles, he said, except that Those moles were on her heart, and they were making it beat out of time. But new problem areas kept popping up.
Heart arrhythmias are caused by an electrical problem or underlying muscle damage (cardiomyopathy), which can lead to heart failure.
Jaster said he was diagnosed with heart failure in April 2021, when he was just 20 years old. At the time, she said she was gaining up to seven pounds of fluid a day as his heart struggled to pump blood.
“It feels like you’re breathing salt water,” he said. “For me, I still had the mental energy. I still had the drive to do things and I couldn’t, so it would be really frustrating.”
Although Jaster described her diagnosis and subsequent hospitalization as a “low point,” being admitted was an important step on her path to a long-term solution.
Now he works at the clinic that saved his life.
Jaster began seeing Dr. Dale Yoo, a cardiologist in McKinney, Texas, in January 2021. Yoo specializes in heart rhythm problems, which can be monitored and corrected with various medical devices.
After his first hospitalization, Yoo suggested implanting a paperclip-sized heart monitor to help keep Jaster out of the hospital in the future. The sensor, called CardioMEMS, can detect changes in pressure before it begins to show physical symptoms of heart failure.
It also has an internal defibrillator, which can detect an irregular heartbeat and reset it with an electric shock.
Now 22, Jaster is finishing his degree in health sciences and working at Yoo’s clinic. She said she helps supervise patients who are implanted with the same device she uses to monitor her own heart.
“Seeing someone young in front of them, who’s been through something very similar to what they had and then has this device and it works well for them, it usually gives them a sense of security,” he said.
And in his spare time between school and his job at the clinic, Jaster has gone back to horseback riding for fun.