Cause of science teacher’s diagnosis unknown

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Photo by Miley Pegg

This pocket-sized device can monitor heartbeats and irregularities.

By Miley Pegg, Social Media Manager

In November 2022, Honors and AP Biology teacher, Brianne Ferreiro was diagnosed with third degree AV Block, a disease which required Ferreiro to receive a pacemaker.

Third degree AV Block occurs when the node in the ventricle of the heart does not receive the atria’s signal. This condition can then lead to bradycardia, the slowing of heart rate. 

Ferreiro’s condition is a genetic mutation in her pedigree. Her great-grandmother passed away at age 40, and her grandmother at 36, both due to heart failure. 

Ferreiro’s father, who passed away in 2021 (in an unrelated accident), had a pacemaker that was installed in 2008, and her brother received one at age 32. Ferriero’s condition versus her brother’s is that he has a defibrillator for tachycardia

Science teacher Brianne Ferreiro stands outside her classroom. She received a pacemaker in January. (Photo by Miley Pegg)

As Ferriero’s symptoms grew, she noticed abnormalities in her health. She “felt tired,” and “…started getting dizzy when I got up, which is not normal for me,” Ferreiro said. 

Ultimately, Ferreiro underwent surgery, and a pacemaker was attached to her heart.

Upon returning to her classes in the winter of 2023, Ferreiro explained that she did not know the cause of her heart condition, but attributed the issue to genetics, or unfortunate circumstances.

Prior to the issues affecting her heart, Ferreiro came down with COVID-19 two weeks after receiving her first Pfizer vaccine in February 2021. She had COVID again in January 2023. Her symptoms were never severe, Ferreiro claimed, and were similar to that of the common cold. Considering the length of time between her illness and her recent heart issues, the likelihood of a connection is scarce. 

Recent research suggests that dozens of COVID variants still exist, and a whole new condition may have risen from the virus. POTS, or postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, is a condition affecting the autonomic nerve system, which controls automatic processes like digestion, blood pressure, and heart rate. Patients with POTS often have a significant increase in heart rate upon standing and a complicated constellation of symptoms, such as headache, fatigue, dizziness, brain fog, and fainting, among many others. 

Anxiety is a common diagnosis for POTS symptoms, according to Washington Post reporter Amanda Morris. The symptoms can be extremely diverse and, in some circumstances, even crippling.

Ferreiro does not have POTS, and remains uncertain as to whether COVID played a role in her recent medical issues. 

Ferreiro said, “It is possible that COVID did this, but…COVID wasn’t around when it did it to my brother, so it could’ve been the common cold…so whether it was COVID that did this to me, I’m just a victim of circumstance, of bad luck and bad genetics.” 

WEGO HEALTH UPDATE

Confirmed COVID cases in have dialed down quite a bit since March 2020. There were over 4 million cases in Illinois, and about 288,000 in DuPage County, and now that number is closer to 850 daily.

While COVID cases do still keep students and staff out of school, Nurse Cathy Collins said that the flu has made the rounds, and strep as well.

Although Collins mentioned that she has seen some individuals who suffer from heart issues, all those conditions were pre-existing, and “nothing that came from COVID.” 

At West Chicago Community High School, Collins reported she sees lots of nausea, stomach aches, vomiting, sore throats, etc. in the winter and spring months, and has done so every year she has been a nurse. 

Nurse Collins does believe that there are “different seasons of a school nurse,” especially in the wintertime. Pink eye, strep and colds are common in the fall; strep, nausea, stomachaches, and the flu are frequent issues in the winter.

“A lot of students don’t eat breakfast in the morning, and sometimes that can contribute to the headache, and the stomachache, and the nausea,” said Collins.