In my words with Adrienne DiRaddo

Nov. 4, 2009

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Running on a cross country team takes a lot of hard work, determination and most importantly it takes heart. No one understands the importance of heart in cross country more than Vanderbilt junior Adrienne DiRaddo. Diagnosed with having a patent foramen ovale (PFO)—a hole in her heart—DiRaddo has taken her condition in stride and has become a stronger person from the experience. DiRaddo was born with the ailment, but it was only discovered recently. The hole in her heart has since been treated, but her heart must be monitored, which DiRaddo does with an implant that records her heart rate. Her ailment has not stopped her from competing in cross country, and she has been among Vanderbilt’s top runners this fall. A neuroscience major from The Woodlands, Texas, DiRaddo has no plans of letting her condition slow her down.

On the improvement of the cross country team under Head Coach Steve Keith
It is nice to learn from someone who has a lot of experience and has the knowledge of what it takes to make us a top team. We are getting better, and our talent level is getting better every year. It is nice to be seen as a threat in the SEC because it is a really competitive conference.

On how her heart condition was discovered
Senior year of high school I was running cross country in the fall, and all of a sudden I had an episode where I passed out. We couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me for a very long time. We figured out I had a PFO, which is basically a hole in my heart. I wasn’t getting the right amount of blood supply, so I had really bad stroke-like symptoms with migraines. I couldn’t run track as a senior, but I got it all patched up and I was ready to go and train for the summer.

On how difficult the ailment was to overcome mentally
It was difficult because you never really know when it is going to happen, and I’m going to all of a sudden get a bad migraine. It just makes you wonder if you should even be trying this. It is kind of like playing Russian roulette. It’s something I had to get through. There are sometimes where it is difficult to know if I’m tired because of my health or tired because of running. It is something I’ve grown from and have kind of carried on in other aspects of life.

On having a setback freshman year
I ran fine freshman year at Vanderbilt and then I got sick in January of my freshman year. We couldn’t figure out what it was because I was having really intense migraines to the point that I couldn’t move. I got an implant that records my heart rate, like a pacemaker without the pacer, which I still have in right now, just to keep tabs and see if I am doing OK.

On how being a runner helps her monitor her heart

Runners are actually pretty good about knowing their bodies, so I can usually feel if I’m getting a migraine or if something is going on heart-related. Thankfully, I have a heart rate monitor. If I ever feel anything is going on, I just stop because it is not worth getting into it.



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