David Reyes has been waiting for years to be dealt one good card - something to help change his hand. His hard luck started as a 6 year-old when his father died of heart disease at age 32. Not long afterward his mother's neglect and battle with drugs left him and his four brothers as wards of the state.
Over the course of the next decade, David lived in 60 foster homes, 15 respite homes, 3 group homes and 2 shelters. He survived physical abuse, sexual assaults and rotten parenting. During this time, he had little to no contact with his brothers.
Still his resilience remained. Despite having attended 18 schools, he graduated on time by doubling up on classes during his senior year.
"I had to learn early one that no one was going to do much for me," he says. "You don't lean too far when you don't have any one to fall back on."
Although he attended community college for a year, he soon was in the workforce earning decent money. About two years ago while at work, David felt nauseous. He blamed it on dehydration and the high temperatures.
His boss then found him collapsed at the work site. A trip to the emergency room soon dealt him another bad card: Brugada Syndrome.
It is a rhythmic disorder that increases the risk sudden cardiac death. If connected to an EKG, the pattern would mirror a heart attack.
While David was led to believe that he could hold off on treatment for a few years, he collapsed five more times.
"My heart rate changes in seconds from 60 beats to 100 beats, and then down I go," he says. His last syncope episode occurred in his kitchen in the middle of the night. Luckily his wife, Leah, heard him go down.
That's when he met with cardiologist Koroush "Ken" Khalighi, MD, an independent member of the medical staff at Easton Hospital. Dr. Khalighi installed a pacemaker/defibrillator to help monitor David's heart rhythm and provide a shock if and when his heart were to stop.
"Brugada Sydrome is rare," David says. "So the nurses at Easton Hospital were interested in the disease and offered a lot of empathy and care as I recovered from surgery."
Despite improvements, everyday can be a struggle. His 6 year-old daughter asks lots of questions and has learned to call 911 if something happens.
"Simple things strain my heart, so I can't play with her or go on a roller coaster or even lift her up," David says. "Life how we used to know it is gone."
He has returned to work at FA Rohrbach on light duty. "They have been very supportive and patient with me," says David. Still he worries how long any employer will tolerate his episodes.
When he gets overworked, his monitor sounds an alarm. He can feel the wild palpitations and chest pressure, but all he can do is sit down, breathe and relax in hopes that nothing happens.
"The hardest part is the floating," David says. "I live 24 hours at a time, never knowing when or if I'll ever catch a break." He has been pushed to the breaking point more than most people face in one lifetime.
"But I wouldn't change a thing," he says. "Everything has made me who I am...a strong husband, father and man."
Still he keeps waiting for an ace or two.
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