Katie in hospital, as she recovers from her pacemaker being fitted. MDWfeatures / Katie Barber

By Alyce Collins


THIS STUNNING nurse went to the hospital after self-diagnosing her own symptoms which eventually led to her needing a PACEMAKER at just TWENTY-FIVE.

Registered nurse Katie Barber (25) from Long Island, USA, has always loved being active but recent health complications have led Katie to reconsider the value of her life

At the age of three Katie began a gymnastics class and developed into a talented gymnast on the vault, uneven bars and the famously tough beam.

Katie was a champion gymnast and skater, which led to her hip problem, in turn leading to the diagnosis of her heart complications. MDWfeatures / Katie Bar

However, a decade after starting, Katie fractured the growth plate of her right hip while on the tumble track. Although this wasn’t the end of Katie’s troubles because after noticing hip pain again in 2018, a CT scan revealed a torn labrum, caused by gradual wear and tear taking its toll on Katie’s body.

In March 2018, Katie required a hip arthroscopy to repair the damage, but a month into her recovery she was experiencing shortness of breath after just walking upstairs as well as pain in her leg. With her own background in nursing, Katie began self-diagnosing.

At the hospital, doctors confirmed Katie’s thoughts and diagnosed her with deep vein thrombosis and a clotting disorder called Prothrombin gene mutation. This condition, coupled with her recent surgery, was causing blood clots throughout her body.

Katie shows the IV drip she had to have when she first noticed shortness of breath. MDWfeatures / Katie Barber

After spending weeks in physical therapy, Katie was experiencing bouts of dizziness, so by September 2018 she returned to the hospital. Further tests revealed that Katie had reached another obstacle as she had an abnormal heart rate, diagnosed as junctional rhythm.

Katie tried various medications to avoid a pacemaker because of her young age, but inevitably there was no better option and she had her pacemaker fitted on February 5, 2019. Katie hopes to show that pacemakers aren’t solely for older patients, as she had once thought.

“At age three, I was enrolled in a basic gymnastics programme for kids,” said Katie.

“Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I participated in floor, uneven bars, vault and beam activities.

“A decade into gymnastics, I fractured the growth plate of my right hip on the tumble track. For six weeks, I was non-weight bearing and needed crutches to get around.

Katie pictured scuba diving in the Bahamas in 2015. MDWfeatures / Katie Barber

“About a year ago, I noticed I was having severe hip pain, and a CT scan revealed I had a torn labrum in my right hip. My orthopaedic surgeon felt that, over time, bone degeneration led to wear and tear injury of my right labrum.

“In March 2018 I underwent right hip arthroscopy to repair this and for two weeks I was non-weight bearing and using crutches. I was then cleared by my surgeon to begin physical therapy.

“I was regaining strength when I noticed shortness of breath while climbing the stairs. Being a nurse, I started to wonder if this could be deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism (PE).

“I never thought something like this would happen to me, but I went to the hospital just to be safe. Well, I’m glad I went because it turns out I had a right leg DVT with bilateral PEs.

Doctors were hesitant to implant a pacemaker but it was the best way for Katie to get her quality of life back. MDWfeatures / Katie Barber

“I was found to have a clotting disorder called Prothrombin gene mutation that causes my body to favour clot formation. This condition combined with the recent surgery was the probable cause of clots in my leg and lungs.”

Katie was hoping to make a swift recovery and learn to live life in the knowledge of her condition being stable but matters only got worse when further scans revealed Katie suffered with a heart condition known as junctional rhythm.

After seeing no improvement with the help of medication, Katie had a pacemaker fitted in February 2019, and hopes to show that life can get better with a pacemaker.

“I was in physical therapy and on the road to recovery when I met another obstacle,” said Katie.

“Starting in June 2018 I noticed these sudden episodes of dizziness that would come and go. Sometimes they could happen daily and last the entire day, other times I could go a week or two feeling fine.

“I felt as if I couldn’t get up from my bed. I was weak and couldn’t stand for more than a few minutes at a time. In September 2018, I went to the hospital and was found to have an abnormal heart rate, later diagnosed as a junctional rhythm.

Katie with her parents in November 2018. MDWfeatures / Katie Barber

“I was kept in the hospital for eight days receiving IVs due to low blood pressure. The next day, I developed chest pain and difficulty breathing. A chest X-ray revealed fluid in my lungs, requiring oxygen for a few days.

“Initially, my doctors wanted to try adjusting medication to avoid pacemaker implantation in such a young patient, but it was my next and only option.

“Being 25 years old, I was hesitant to get a pacemaker, but the unpredictability and symptoms associated with this abnormal heart rhythm was significantly affecting my lifestyle.

“I was very nervous and honestly, angry. I wondered why these things keep happening to me. Whenever I thought I was improving, something else seemed to interfere with my recovery.

“By February 5, 2019, I was ready to get my life back, so I had a Medtronic Azure pacemaker placed.

“It seems vain, but being a young female, I had some concern for aesthetic appearance of a pacemaker. I thought it might look weird when wearing a swimsuit for example.

“As a cardiac ICU nurse, I’m accustomed to seeing patients with pacemakers. Most are much older, but there are a fair share of younger patients also needing these devices. It seems that people without formal medical training don’t understand the purpose of pacemakers, and more importantly, the normal lifestyle that one can give.

Katie loved being active and outdoors, but her junctional rhythm stopped her from being able to live for a few months until she had her pacemaker. MDWfeatures / Katie Barber

“When I told people I was getting a pacemaker, or now when people find out I have one, they’re shocked and often tell me I’m too young for one. It gets a little frustrating to hear that.

“I’ve noticed more energy and no episodes of fatigue or dizziness related to junctional rhythm. Overall, the device is doing its job, and I no longer have the fear of dizzy episodes.

“Despite the hardships, which may seem unfair for someone my age, it’s important to remain positive and consider that many others have been through similar procedures and come out with a better quality of life.”


You can see more by visiting @katiiebarber.