Shaun White, the halfpipe snowboarding gold medalist at the current Winter Olympics in Vancouver, is not only known for his daring flips on the snowboard, but he was born with a congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot, a condition in which the heart has four abnormalities. This snowboard prodigy had his heart operated on twice before reaching one-years-old.
By 6-years-old, Shaun White began snowboarding for the first time and competing when he was 7-years-old. At 13-years-old, White became a pro snowboarder who also excelled at skateboarding.
According to Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Tetralogy of Fallot / TOF is a cardiac anomaly that refers to a combination of four related heart defects that commonly occur together. The four defects include:
- Pulmonary stenosis (narrowing of the pulmonary valve and outflow tract or area below the valve, that creates an obstruction (blockage) of blood flow from the right ventricle to the pulmonary artery
- Ventricular septal defect / VSD
- Overriding aorta (the aortic valve is enlarged and appears to arise from both the left and right ventricles instead of the left ventricle as occurs in normal hearts)
- Right ventricular hypertrophy (thickening of the muscular walls of the right ventricle, which occurs because the right ventricle is pumping at high pressure)