EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 4, 2013

Second chance

Hillies' Broderick happy to be swimming after childhood heart surgery

By Dave Dyer
ddyer@eagletribune.com

---- — With the Division 1 state swimming meet less than two weeks away, the Brodericks, Lisa and Bill, are probably getting ready to celebrate again.

Only this year, it will be a different kind of celebration.

A year ago, the Brodericks watched as oldest daughter Sarah, a Haverhill High senior at the time, captured state titles in both the 50 and 100-meter freestyle, giving her three state crowns in two years. She’s enjoying a fine freshman season this fall at UNH. Sarah was also on two placing relays, the 200 medley (third) and 400 freestyle (fourth) as was younger sister Meaghan, who is now a senior for the Hillies.

Meaghan will be back again, as will promising younger sister and freshman Caitlin, and she should do well, although it’s unlikely she’ll be a state champion.

Nevertheless, Bill and Lisa will be celebrating anything that Meaghan accomplishes, even if it’s just competing.

When Meaghan was 10 years-old, she started having breathing problems and passing out.

One day in the summer, she fainted and, at first, wouldn’t wake up.

Initial tests didn’t detect a serious problem but a neighbor and nurse, Kristen Messer, suggested that initial EKG results be studied by Mark Josephson, a well known cardiologist.

Josephson did just that and recommended immediate heart surgery because she had a condition known as Anomalous aortic origin of a coronary artery. (AAOCA) which is a rare heart anomaly with a high risk of sudden death in children.

Basically, what it meant was that one of Meaghan’s two arteries to the heart was not in the proper position and had to be transplanted to the correct location.

“I only remember bits and pieces but I remember I was scared of the surgery,” said Meaghan. “But I know now that I had some of the best doctors you can have.”

Obviously, the operation was a success and, after a period of rest, Meaghan’s doctor recommended monitored cardiovascular exercise so that her artery could keep growing.

So Meaghan returned to swimming but she also did basketball, volleyball, softball and just about everything else she could. Now, although she still gets tested yearly, she rarely thinks about her surgery.

“Sometimes when I get an ache or a pain I think about it, but not very often,” said Meaghan. “I know I’m lucky.”

Bill and Lisa consider themselves lucky as well.

“There have been a couple of scares but everything’s been fine, knock on wood,” said Bill. “We’re fortunate we had such good doctors.”

As for the state meet, Meaghan hopes to improve her times and help Haverhill score as many points as possible. She’s not expecting any Sarah-like performance.

“I try to live up to Sarah, but it’s hard,” she said. “But she definitely motivates me and inspires me to push myself and to love swimming.”

In fact, Meaghan plans on continuing to swim in college, but not competitively. She wants to get into a nursing program and she figures that her school work will take up too much time.

“But I’ll still train and do laps,” she said.

For Bill and Lisa, that will be more than enough.