Broken Heart Won’t Stop Her


Brittany Lieber playing in a Jones’ volleyball game. Photo provided by Lieber.

Imagine not being able to move, having your entire body tighten up, and becoming lightheaded from your heart tensing at an unexpected point of everyday.  This is the daily life for Brittany Lieber ‘15.  She experiences these conditions and her breathing pattern changes due to Ectopic Atrial Tachycardia, an uncommon heart condition.

“I can tell immediately when it’s happening.  It’s very sudden,” Lieber said.  The senior volleyball player and track and field athlete typically experiences these pains when relaxing, like watching television.  The pain typically dies down after about two minutes.  One day during volleyball practice, however, the pain did not subside.

“It was a really traumatizing moment.  As soon as we all saw her run off the court, everyone just stopped playing and didn’t know what to do,” Ellice McDonald ‘15 said.

Lieber said that she remembers being extremely frustrated that her scrimmage team was losing and was stuck on serve receive.  Suddenly, she felt her body become tense and she could not move.  Her heart began pounding, her chest tightened, and her breathing became shortened.  She could not pay attention to the game or people around her.  As she realized what was happening and that it was not going away, she ran off the court with her head spinning.  She quickly told her coach that her chest was hurting and needed to get water.

“I remember running out of the gym looking for her, but she was no where to be found.  My mind jumped to the worst conclusion,” Tiffany Price ‘15 said.  Lieber said that Tiffany must have not seen her at the water fountain.

Thankfully, however, Lieber returned within about ten minutes feeling slightly dazed.  She decided to sit out the rest of practice to let her “body calm down.”

Prior to this experience, Lieber was aware about her heart condition, but this was the first time it had ever been as severe.  Before getting her wisdom teeth pulled last summer, monitors for the sedation detected an irregular heartbeat.  After this, her doctor had her track her heartbeat with a heart monitor.

The results led to three options that all held possible negative consequences: medication, surgery, or nothing.  As Lieber has not chosen an option yet, she is continuing to pursue her hopes of making state in track and field.  Because of this, she abstains from caffeine and smoking and she drinks a great deal of water to stay hydrated so that her heart rate does not speed up.

“I have confidence that I am going to make it to state and not let this condition stop me,” Lieber said.

Brittany Lieber '15 practicing for track and field.  Photo provided by Lieber
Brittany Lieber ’15 practicing for track and field. Photo provided by Lieber