A 17-year-old boy has a rare condition – if his heart races, he might die, meaning he could even be killed by playing football or chatting up women.
Liam Spare has ‘sudden death syndrome’, an illness where if his heart rate goes above 80 beats per minute, he is at serious risk of cardiac arrest.
The teen can’t dance at a disco or play football with his mates and riding on a roller coaster is strictly forbidden.
Liam can’t do anything that will gets his heart racing, so when he meets up with his now girlfriend, he has to plan what he was going to say in advance – so nerves don’t trigger his illness.
The college student has already suffered three cardiac arrests and was in a coma earlier this year, after his heart stopped when he lifted too many weights. A gym worker gave him CPR before paramedics shocked his heart back into action, and now he has a mini-defibrillator inside his body, in case his heart stops again.
If I get too excited, like a sudden rush of adrenaline, it could kill me,’ said Liam, who is from Swadlincote in Derbyshire.
‘If someone made me jump it could shock me and I could collapse.
‘For me, a raised heart rate is quite serious. I could just drop dead if I get too excited. It’s really scary to think about.’
(Picture: SWNS.COM)Liam said: ‘Roller coasters are out of the equation and I can’t run fast. A very light jog is just about all I can manage.
‘Obviously I can’t do any sports. As a kid I couldn’t really go out with friends to socialise until my brother was able to look after me. I stayed at home a lot.
‘I’ve never really done P.E. I’ve always been limited to what I can do at school. I missed out on a lot of my childhood.
‘It is upsetting because all of my mates used to ask me out and I had to say no. I feel like I have missed out on so much.’
Liam was only four when he had his first cardiac arrest, after he ran ahead of his mum on a trip to the shops.
An ambulance was called, but Liam’s heart miraculously restarted on its own and doctors explained it as ‘collapse on exertion’.
Four years later, when he was eight years old, Liam collapsed in his mum’s arms when his heart stopped again after he ran to pick up his scarf that had blown away in the wind.
Luckily, his heart started beating again and he was taken to Burton Hospital’s intensive treatment unit for further tests.
Liam’s mum, Claire, 38, said she pushed doctors to investigate and he was given an electrocardiogram for 24 hours, to test the function of his heart.
(Picture: SWNS.COM)Experts at Birmingham Hospital’s heart clinic finally diagnosed him with two deadly heart conditions.
He has catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia (CPVT) – where an increase in heart rate due to activity or stress can trigger an abnormally fast and irregular heartbeat.
He was also diagnosed with long QT – an inherited heart rhythm issue where the muscle takes longer than normal to recharge between beats.
Liam remembers how he would watch on from the sidelines while his mates played sports at school.
He had to settle for picking up the cones at the end of the session and always felt jealous of his classmates.
Liam said: ‘It was a big shock when we found out. Thinking back now I feel very lucky that nothing serious happened.
‘The doctors told me I couldn’t do anything too strenuous or take part in competitive sports. I have to try to stay calm as best as I can.
‘I do my best and I have the support of my family. If I feel like my heart rate is increasing I do start to panic. I have to start breathing slowly to control it.’
(Picture: Liam Spare/SWNS)When he was diagnosed, Liam was told a heart rate of 80bpm or above would be ‘dangerous’ and leave him at risk of cardiac arrest.
He was advised to keep his heart rate around 60bpm where possible – the lowest normal resting heart rate.
Liam must take regular breaks when walking up a steep hill or several flights of stairs, and has been warned to stay away from alcohol.
And when it comes to dating, he worries about getting flustered and had to plan for days in advance what he wanted to say to girls, before he met his girlfriend.
He took the same precautions during the interview for his first job, at a village pub.
And before he makes important phone calls, Liam reminds himself to talk slowly, take deep breathes and have a ready-made script in his head when under pressure.
Liam said: ‘I do anything I can to stay calm. I’ve just learnt to take life very easy.
‘Whatever I do, I have to take deep breaths and if I feel my heart beating faster I just have to stop.
‘Talking slowly works well for me. It’s one of the ways I’ve learnt to manage it.’
(Picture: Liam Spare/SWNS)‘What I really want is freedom. I do feel very restricted a lot of the time. I always have my phone on me and can’t really go out on my own.’
All physical activity was banned until December last year, when he was given the all-clear to start lifting weights at the gym.
He joined with his brother Joshua, 19, and had been going two or three times a week for six weeks when he suffered a cardiac arrest midway through a session, in January.
‘I was told I could do weights and I was enjoying it. It’s the first time I’ve been allowed to do exercise,’ he said.
‘We were doing deadlifts.
‘I had done two reps of 70kg and on the third I collapsed.
‘My brother put me in the recovery position. He knew exactly what to do but was panicking. It must have been really scary for him.
‘A guy at the gym came over to help. He gave me CPR while the ambulance was on its way.
‘Without him I wouldn’t be here. He saved my life.It was a brave thing to do and I’m really grateful to him.’
Liam was kept alive for long enough for paramedics to arrive in time to shock his heart back into action.
Despite ‘struggling’ to get his heart beating again, medics managed to save Liam’s life and rushed him to the hospital for emergency treatment.
He was placed in an induced coma for three days and then cared for by specialist cardiac experts.
Following his near-death experience, his heart was fitted with a mini-defibrillator in February, which will shock it back into rhythm if it slips into an irregular beat.
He said: ‘I feel like I can live my life more independently now. I feel much safer.
‘It has given me the freedom to feel like I can go out and not be worried about what might happen.
‘I can go out with friends and am not confined to the house. I feel much happier.
‘It has given me a sense of security that I haven’t had before.’
He plans to go back to the gym to thank the gym worker who saved his life – but has no intention of working out.
Liam said: ‘I’m going to choose the safe option from now on. I’m just going to have to not work out anymore. It’s just too risky for me.
‘I don’t have any regrets about making the decision. I just don’t feel as though my heart would be strong enough to do it.
‘It’s not worth the risk.’
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