AUSTIN (KXAN) - A team of Central Texas doctors who helped treat Ben Breedlove most of his life are hurting.
"I was very saddened for Ben's family that this happened on Christmas Day," said Dr. Karen Wright, a pediatric cardiologist at Dell Children's Medical Center.
But she was not completely surprised by the news shared by her daughters who attended Westlake High School with Breedlove.
"He did have a very serious heart condition that in recent months has been more problematic for him," said Wright.
He was born with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy , or HCM. His heart muscle was thicker than normal which made it difficult to pump blood. The disease caused an abnormal heart rhythm.
The condition is typically passed down through genetics, though Breedlove's father said everyone in the family has been checked and nothing has been found.
The disease is most well known as the leading cause of sudden death in young athletes, but is not always fatal.
"Some people that have a diagnosis of HCM will live long and completely healthy lives," said Wright.
The effects in young people, like Breedlove, are typically more severe. His warning signs showed up early on, including the first time the 18-year-old said he "cheated death" during a seizure at age 4.
An abnormal heartbeat plagued Ben throughout his life, but in recent months friends, family and doctors watched it get worse.
His smile and joy never wavered.
He was not the typical patient with his peace and positive outlook on his abbreviated, but full life.
"Those things reverberate not just for the person that has the disease, but really everybody in their lives, their family members, their siblings, their friends," said Wright. "Everybody is touched by that and I think Ben carried a very important message."
( Ed. note: KXAN.com will live stream Ben's funeral on Thursday at 3 p.m., at the request of his father, Shawn Breedlove.)
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