On Tuesday morning, hours before Jake Kretzer played against Miami University, the University of Akron freshman found himself in a cardiologist’s office.
As he was hooked up to an IV for a stress test and put through an echocardiogram, the only thing that calmed Kretzer was the fact he was being treated by the specialist who saved the life of Sid Dambrot, the father of Zips coach Keith Dambrot, nearly three years ago.
“That’s what he told me,” Kretzer said, referring to his coach. “That made me feel a lot more comfortable.”
Kretzer said he started experiencing a rapid heartbeat when he was a sophomore at Waverly High School in southeastern Ohio. When it began happening in practice his junior year, he went to the doctor. He said he was examined by a cardiologist again as a senior.
But that didn’t prepare Kretzer for what happened during UA’s practice Monday.
Kretzer’s heart rate spiked. Recognizing the symptoms, which Kretzer described as lightheadedness and feeling like his “body shuts down,” he left the court.
“I came out, got it calmed down,” Kretzer said Thursday at Rhodes Arena. “I went back in and it happened again. My whole jersey was moving, you could see where my heart was beating so hard. They couldn’t get my pulse down. It took like 10 or 15 minutes.
“It was really scary. Everyone was kind of freaking out. I was like, ‘Do I need to go to a hospital?’ I told my mom I thought I was going to die right there on the court.”
Kretzer said his heart rate, normally between 90 and 100 when he’s working out and 40 or 50 when he’s at rest, had reached about 140.
Dambrot got Kretzer in to see his father’s cardiologist that day. The next morning, Kretzer underwent tests. He was cleared to play against Miami as the Zips clinched their second consecutive Mid-American Conference regular-season title.
But Kretzer conceded that he was still shaken by the experience. He hit only 2-of-6 shots, missing all four attempts from 3-point range, while playing 20 minutes in the 72-58 victory over the RedHawks.
“It was difficult for me to play because I had it in the back of my mind I didn’t want it to happen again,” Kretzer said. “I knew it wasn’t a life-or-death situation, I wasn’t going to pass out or die from it, so I wasn’t as nervous. But I still had anxiety about it.”
Kretzer learned he has “an extra nerve” or “electrical pathway” that causes his heart to accelerate.
“My heart beats, but when it gets set off this other pathway beats,” Kretzer said. “So it almost doubles my heart rate compared to everyone else.”
According to the National Library of Medicine’s web site, the condition is called Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, described as one of the most common causes of fast heart rates in infants and children.
Kretzer said that he has talked to Zips trainer Mike Macatangay about the issue and that Macatangay suggested caffeine or lack of sleep could aggravate it.
“Usually when I go from slow to fast it will just kick on and it won’t stop,” Kretzer said. “I’ve got to cough or breathe really slowly and then it will go back into rhythm.”
Kretzer said the elder Dambrot’s cardiologist told him he might eventually need treatment, which is called cardiac ablation. Using electrodes fed through a catheter, small areas in the heart are destroyed.
“They’ll take a wire and put it in the electrical pathway and burn it off so I won’t have that extra [one],” Kretzer said. “He said he’ll only have to do that if it gets worse.”
Sid Dambrot nearly died from sudden cardiac arrest, which has a 2 percent rate of survival, according to the web site of the hospital that treated him. Keith Dambrot will be watching Kretzer closely.
“The doctor has an idea,” Dambrot said when asked if he knew the cause. “He doesn’t know if Jake needs treatment yet. If it keeps happening then we’ll go that route because it scares him.
“[What happened Monday] scared us.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the her blog at http://www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.