It all started with a friendly game of tennis. On October 19th 2013, Maxwell Horland, then a junior at Agoura High School, was playing a game of tennis with a friend when he suddenly collapsed. Max could not catch his breath, or slow his heart rate. He was rushed to the hospital, and the next few days were filled with a series of tests and exams to determine what had happened. On October 24th, 2013, max was diagnosed with arrythmyogenic right ventricular dysplasia, or ARVD.
ARVD is a rare heart condition in which the muscle of the right ventricle is slowly replaced by fatty tissue. The right ventricle of the heart is also dilated, which weakens the ability of the heart to pump blood. Symptoms of ARVD include ventricular arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats, palpitations, and dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting caused by irregular heart rhythms. However, the first sign of ARVD can also be sudden cardiac death. ARVD is actually one of the leading causes of death in young athletes. Often, the young football player collapsing on the field from heart failure is caused by ARVD.
There is currently no cure for ARVD, the doctors can only try to control arrhythmias and manage heart failure. The primary goal in treating ARVD is preventing sudden death. Most patients are treated with antiarrhythmic drug therapy. If a patient has frequent arrhythmias that haven't been successfully treated with therapy, they may be treated with ablation to essentially burn the excess fatty tissue off the heart. Patients who are determined to be at risk for sudden death can have an implantable cardioverter defibrillator surgically installed in their chest.
Before being diagnosed, Max was a member of AHS's tennis team, and would spend much of his free time at the gym, surfing, skating, and playing basketball with friends. Max has had to quit all of these activities in hopes of slowing the progression of his disease. He has also begun to take a myriad of heart medications which are meant to keep his heart rate under control. Max also had an advanced case of ARVD, so on October 24th, the same day of his diagnosis, he underwent heart surgery at the age of 16 to implant an ICD. This device works a little bit like a pacemaker, but it's not the same. It is designed to shock Max's heart in the likely event that his heart begins having irregular rhythms or stops. This cardiac arrest could result from running a mile, or from doing absolutely nothing at all, his heart could just suddenly decide to stop.
Now, this story could end here. This could have been a tale of a promising high school sports career cut short. However, this is not the case. ARVD is a rare disease, and not very well known, given that most cases are discovered only after a person has died from it. Upon discovering this, according to Max, he and his twin brother Alex Horland began a club, Aiding Hearts, at AHS. The club is dedicated to raising awareness and funding research for ARVD. In April of 2014, this club became involved in Kids Helping Kids, a nonprofit organization which opened a branch at AHS last year. Kids Helping Kids held a fair in the spring to promote causes like Aiding Hearts' cause. From this fair, Max and Alex decided to expand their goal, and start their own nonprofit 501(c) 3 under the same name as their club. This organization aims to raise awareness about ARVD and fundraise for research.
Max and his loved ones have suffered as a result of his diagnoses, but according to Max, he still finds himself as lucky. His doctors were able to diagnose him with ARVD, and begin his treatment, which is an option he knows is not available to the thousands of people unaware that they are living with this deadly disease proliferating inside of them. Max is determined to raise awareness about ARVD so that no more young lives are lost due to a lack of knowledge of ARVD symptoms. If you wish to assist Max with his cause, you can donate using the link on his Facebook page or through their website address, aidinghearts.net.
Aiding Hearts is a qualified 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.