A St. James Episcopal Day School fifth-grade student used February’s designation as American Heart Month to share his personal story of heart problems.

John Schilling Staley was playing football outside with his father on March 11, 2017, when he felt a strange sensation in his chest.

“My heart started to race so fast and I had trouble breathing. My heart was experiencing what we now know was supraventricular tachycardia. It was beating over 240 beats a minute. A normal heart rate for a child my age should be between 70-110 beats a minute,” John said.

John’s parents took him to his pediatrician’s office, where he received an EKG that revealed he needed to see a pediatric cardiologist that week. Four days later, the pediatric cardiologist performed another EKG and a heart ultrasound, revealing a congenital heart defect.

The Staley family learned John would need surgery to correct the heart defect. He went through more testing, began taking medication and began to wear heart monitors. His parents, Mark and Brooke, began educating themselves about their son’s condition so they would know what the future held.

Two months later, complications led to the surgery being performed much sooner than expected.

“On Aug. 2, 2017, I had surgery. I remember being rolled into the surgery room and at first, they were putting stickers all over my body. There were so many doctors and people in the room with me. They gave me a mask and stinky smoke went through my lungs. They told me to count back from 100 and before I knew it, I was sound asleep,” John said.

His surgery lasted more than seven hours. Mark and Brooke Staley learned from their son’s physician that John’s heart had been in and out of supraventricular tachycardia for years. The AV node, which controls heart rate, was abnormal and repairing the defect was more difficult than anticipated.

“When I woke up, I was in a recovery room with my parents. My mom was crying in a chair. I asked her if I was done and she said, ‘Yes, you are all done and your heart is better,’” John said. “She wiped away her tears. My dad kissed me on the forehead and he had tears in his eyes, too.”

Months later, he was able to resume his normal childhood, running and playing sports again.

“I do continue to go back to the doctors and they check my heart with monitors, but so far I am great. No more medicine for me. God answered my prayers and I am so thankful,” he said.