Brooke Abate lived a fairly normal life as a stay-at-home mother to two children.
That is, until one day when the usual school run left her 7-year-old daughter, Jayla, in the hospital, WXIA reports.
“One day, while Jayla was getting ready for school, she was sitting on the potty and fell over,” Brooke, 29, explains. “She was white and unresponsive. I called 911 and they took her to the hospital. Doctors said it was a virus and sent us home a couple days later.”
Little did the family know that was the only beginning of Jayla’s fainting spells.
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Brooke ended up taking her daughter to multiple doctors, none whom could determine what was wrong with the girl.
“It made me feel like I was going nuts,” she recalls after meeting a cardiologist who said he could find nothing. “One doctor even said, ‘I think it’s a cry for attention.’”
One day, Jayla walked up to her mother and said, “I just want you to know that I love you,” before passing out again.
“I was so scared,” Brooke says. “I thought she was telling me that because she was dying.”
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Instead of facing a tragedy, a miracle in the form of an answer finally emerged.
It turned out Jalya had a condition called sick sinus syndrome, an illness that usually affects those over age 70, Mayo Clinic says. The condition affects the heart's rhythm, and can usually be improved with a pacemaker.
Doctors promptly installed a pacemaker into the child.
Since then, the girl’s fainting spells have decreased, although she still suffers various other issues related to the condition, like infections and stress.
“She cries and she’s scared to go to sleep at night,” Brooke says.
At the same time, while they’re grateful to finally learn what’s wrong with their child, the medical expenses have taken a toll.
“It’s very tough to deal with,” Brooke says, adding that they’ve created a GoFundMe account for people to donate to. “It’s so much stress, so much going on. The expenses are horrible, and being on a fixed income, it’s really hard.”
Both Brooke and her husband have been in accidents, leaving them unable to work. They get by on limited disability benefits.
She hopes parents can learn from her story.
“Never take anything for granted,” she says. “You always see things happen to people, and you never think it’s gonna be you. Then it hits you -- ‘wow, we could have really lost our child here.’ It’s a very, very scary thing.”