For most of her life, Rachel Ainslie just dealt with the discomfort.
The Eastlake High School senior can’t remember when she first began experiencing an erratic heart beat or even a skip, but she never thought it was out of the ordinary and didn’t want to overreact, especially with a set of symptoms that were difficult to pin down.
“I had it my entire life but I thought it was normal,” Ainslie said. “I thought I was being a wimp by succumbing to it.”
Her radar ramped up after an episode on an amusement park ride in middle school left her with blurred vision and peaked as she began at Eastlake. Ainslie was out to dinner with her parents and friends of the family when she began experiencing the telltale sign of an increasingly rapid heart beat. Her parents took her to a local fire station, where she was given fluids and monitored. While a frightening experience for the entire family, the trip led to a long-awaited diagnosis: Supraventricular Tachycardia.
Characterized by the unpredictable, rapid heart beat Ainslie had become familiar with, SVT is a malfunction in the heart’s electrical system that causes it to beat as fast as 300 beats per minute, or more than three times the usual resting rate.
“It was impossible to see what was happening unless an episode was going on,” Ainslie said.
After the diagnosis, the outlook was much clearer. In order to avoid the complications that can arise if it goes untreated, Ainslie and her family elected for surgery.
With the condition diagnosed and the procedure complete, Ainslie was able to get back on the court for the Eastlake girls and her older sister Katy, living out a career she had been visualizing since childhood.
“Being on the varsity team was something I always thought was incredible,” she said. “When I was little I asked one of the senior girls for her autograph.”
After helping the Lady Wolves to the 4A state tournament last year, Ainslie almost saw her final prep campaign end before it even began.
During an AAU game in the spring, Ainslie was recovering on the defensive end of the floor when her knee buckled beneath her. Since the injury occurred on a routine move she had completed countless times before, the diagnosis came as a shock: a torn ACL in her knee, an injury with an expected recovery time of a year.
The first few months after the injury were the most difficult, as the senior-to-be considered the suddenly acute possibility she would never again put on the Eastlake uniform she dreamed of wearing for so many years.
“I don’t know what I was excepting,” she said. “But I know it wasn’t to watch the muscle in my leg disappear.”
Physical therapy sessions stopped the atrophy in her muscles and eventually gave her back enough functional strength to begin more sport-specific training like jumping and making quick changes of direction on a run or out of a backpedal. Ainslie said the sessions were sometimes intensely difficult, but an obvious choice with her Eastlake teammates waiting for another 4A state tournament run.
“I was really happy, close to tears,” Ainslie said of the day she returned to the practice floor this season. “It is the best feeling in the world.”
Eastlake lost its opening round game in the 4A KingCo tournament against Newport and will face Bothell in a loser-out game on Saturday at 3 p.m. in the Juanita High School fieldhouse.
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