MIAMI — In just a few months, WPLG-Channel 10 reporter Michael Seiden has become the unlikely South Florida face of a heart disease that’s as rare as it can be deadly.
And it’s a medical condition you probably never heard of.
It’s not the 31-year-old Seiden who’s afflicted with the curable syndrome, something called Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW).
It’s his son Bennett. And since tiny Bennett’s going to be four months old soon, Seiden has made it his mission to warn the public about the potentially fatal abnormality.
Seiden says he and his wife Jessica, 31, a commercial litigation lawyer, were incredibly lucky to find out early that something was wrong with their infant son. It happened just three weeks after his birth over the summer.
“My wife was feeding him when she noticed he was lethargic and not taking the bottle,” Seiden explained. “We’re first time parents. So we decided to take him to his pediatrician.”
Minutes into the visit, Seiden says, the doctor called 911 to have the baby rushed to the hospital.
“It was WPW,” Seiden said. “I’d never heard of it.”
Seiden explains that because it has an extra electrical path between chambers of his heart, Bennett’s heart can start beating extra fast for long periods of time for no apparent reason.
“He’s had a reading of 330 beats per minute,” Seiden says. “If an episode continues long enough, my son could have a sudden heart attack and die.”
Thing is, Seiden says, the condition is rare. Fewer than 20,000 people in this country are diagnosed every year.
And it’s totally treatable with medication and surgery.
All it takes to diagnose WPW is a simple EKG heart test.
Bennett’s been better for past few days, Seiden said, because the fifth medication tried on him might be working. It took five trips to the Intensive Care Unit before doctors found what could be the right medication, although the jury’s still out.
If he has yet another episode, Bennett could be forced to have the surgery.
After his recent news bit on WPLG about the discovery that his son has WPW, he’s heard from hundreds of South Floridians who were convinced to get themselves checked out.
“I’ve felt it was my job to become active in warning people about this,” Seiden said. “I’ll continue to insist at public gatherings that people need to get an EKG.
“I’ve found out that a lot of local hospitals actually offer free EKGs for children, so it’s really a no brainer.”