MEDFORD, Ore. – A Medford family is raising awareness for a rare and potentially fatal heart condition.
Jessica Szoyka was diagnosed with a serious form of Hypertrophic Cardio-Myopathy (HCM) in December. Now she and her husband are trying to get her open heart surgery that they say could save her life.
Szoyka was diagnosed with HCM 14 years ago when she was 22. It wasn’t until this past December that she realized how serious it was.
“I started experiencing some visual changes that caused me to go to the doctor,” said Szoyka. “And then I learned that I had a change – a significant change – in my cardiac condition.”
Thick ventrical walls in Jessica’s heart limit blood flow and oxygen to her body. It leaves her too exhausted to perform most daily tasks. And that’s just the beginning.
“My cells are criss-crossed, and it’s causing electrical problems, which could put me at risk for sudden death,” said Szoyka.
She’s wearing a heart monitor for the next week to determine that risk of sudden death. Plus three daily prescriptions, lab and genetic testing, and much more.
She says the expenses add up.
“I just had a cardiac MRI at Stanford and a stress test,” said Szoyka. “Everything’s rolling in. So I don’t even know where to start at this point.”
Now Jessica and her soon-to-be husband, Kevin, await open heart surgery. They say it could save Jessica’s life, but insurance is calling her HCM a pre-existing condition.
“If insurance doesn’t pay, we’re looking at $300,000,” said Kevin Orella, Jessica’s fiancé. “If they do pay and it’s only at 80%, we’re still looking in the neighborhood of $60,000.”
They say the only way they can afford the operation is through fundraising, which they’ve only just started.
In the meantime, they’re spreading the word to anyone else who could be at risk.
“The worry here is the ones that don’t have symptoms, so they’re not getting detected or followed,” said Szoyka. “They’re the ones that are at risk for sudden death.”
Most people with Jessica’s condition can live normal lives. She says only about 5% have the rare form she suffers from. Click here if you want to donate.