(Crawfordsville, AR) On almost any given Friday, you’re likely to find 16-year-old Taylor Nemenz on the sidelines helping lead cheers for the Marion High School Patriots Football Team.
“It’s Friday night lights, it’s all your friends get to see you and it’s a big deal at school,” Taylor said.
When Taylor cheers, there’s no hint of what she’s been through — and it’s been a lot.
About two years before becoming a member of the high school cheer team, she had a serious health scare at home.
“She actually fell down our stairs and passed out. So we think Abbi (her sister) found her. We had no idea what was going on,” Ginger Nemenz said.
As you might imagine, her parents, Ginger and Buddy, and her sister, Abbi, were scared.
“Terrified. I was worried about her hitting her head. I’m a nurse for brain injury and spinal cord injury. So of course the worse case scenario came to mind,” Ginger said.
“I didn’t want to face up to it. It was scary,” Buddy said.
The family knew there was only one place Taylor needed to be, and that was Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis.
“I knew Le Bonheur was the best place for her to go at her age,” Ginger said.
Taylor was carefully tested, but at first no problems were found, and she was eventually allowed to leave the hospital.
However, a few days later, she experienced another episode, this time passing out at school.
“Another student found her in the hallway on the ground and picked her up and carried her into the office,” Ginger said.
Taylor was rushed back to Le Bonheur, but her doctors now wanted to see if the fainting and dizziness could be related to her heart.
“This is when they called cardiology to get into the picture,” Ginger said.
It was determined she had a very serious condition called Long QT Syndrome, which can be life-threatening.
Dr. Glenn Wetzel is a pediatric cardiologist at Le Bonheur.
“People can pass out, but not by the usual mechanism, but because the heart just stops beating effectively, and die suddenly,” Wetzel said.
After medications didn’t work, Dr. Wetzel knew surgery might be needed.
It would include a cardio defibrillator and an ICD box implanted into her shoulder, and the surgery worked.
Months later, Taylor was healthy enough to even try out for and make the cheer team, but with a few cheer routine limitations to avoid any heart complications.
“She’s like a miracle girl. It’s a blessing that they found what was wrong with her and could fix it,” Buddy said.
“To be able to make that diagnosis even though it was difficult for the parents and patients, but to give them the right therapy to do well is what we do medicine for,” Wetzel said.
These days, Taylor enjoys cheering, surfing the net, painting pictures, and she occasionally even plays guitar with her dad.
“I am happy with where I am and what I want my future to be,” Taylor said.
It’s a melody of joy heard in the music of Taylor Nemenz, a cheerleader now with a strong heart, and family that says Le Bonheur’s large red-and-white-stitched heart above its hospital building offers hope to families with sick children.
“It’s a beacon. It’s a reminder of just a place that had an answer for us and answer for a very scary situation,” Buddy said.