My heart won’t let me play

Roseline Odhiambo [David Njaaga,Standard]
One day in 2010, when going about my day, which happened to be mostly on the volley pitch practicing for an upcoming game with the other national team members, my heart started beating extremely fast.

I thought this was due to the rigorous training regimen, so I downed a glass of cold water but the rapid heartbeat persisted.

Even after the game was over and I was rested, they persisted. The palpitations were on and off. However I did not take them seriously until in August 2012, matters got out of hand. The palpitations were accompanied by bouts of fainting and shortness of breath. I had to see a doctor.

I consulted a cardiologist who carried out some tests that did not reveal any medical issue. Hoping to get an answer, the doctor implanted a Loop Recorder into my chest. This is a device that monitors and records the heart’s rhythms.

SEE ALSO :Tell-tale signs of heart trouble

I was advised that if I felt the palpitations, to hit the press button and the device would record the palpitations and other vital medical information. From the reading the input in the device, the cardiologist would get a correct diagnosis.

End of a career

It was then I was diagnosed with arrhythmia, which I was told was caused by a false pathway in my heart. 

I was supposed to go for an open heart surgery. But this would have meant that my sporting career would come to an end. Instead of an open heart surgery, I opted for a cardiac ablation in South Africa.

They explained that the procedure involved the doctor threading one or more catheters through my blood vessels to the heart. Electrodes, located at the catheter tips can use heat, extreme cold or radio-frequency energy to damage (ablate) a small spot of heart tissue and create an electrical block along the pathway that was causing my arrhythmia.

The surgery went well and I was soon back playing the sport for Kenya Pipeline Company. This however lasted a few months before I suffered a complete heart block. The heart could not pump by itself. It was like a minor heart attack.


I spent one week in the high dependency unit, before I went for a surgery, where a pacemaker was implanted. This was to help control my heart’s rhythms. That was in August 2013.

Thereafter, I was in and out of the hospital for evaluations. After the pacemaker was implanted, the doctor had advised me to quit volleyball and that was the end of life as I knew it.

For the last one year, I have been okay. I go for my normal checkups and take my medication thrice per day. I will be on medication for life. Though the medications are expensive, my employer has a good medical cover.

I believe that things happened the way they did for a reason. If my heart condition would have been detected earlier, I would not have played volleyball. And maybe my parents would not have afforded the treatment and medication for arrhythmia.

While I don’t play volleyball anymore, I serve in other capacities. I am the second vice chairperson of the upper lake region of Kenya Volleyball Federation. Besides, when called upon, I give advice to my former KPC teammates, most of who still play. 

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