It was an early August morning in Port Coquitlam—another day of swimming lessons for Claudia’s four active daughters. As the lessons got underway, though, something went horribly wrong. Kiara, her 11-year-old daughter, had fainted in the pool.

“I thought she may have dived in the shallow end. Maybe she had a head injury, maybe she was drowning,” Claudia said.

Kiara was rushed to the hospital. Initially, she was cleared and referred to a pediatrician.

Then, not even six months later, Kiara fainted while jumping rope at school. The next month, there was a third episode—this time, Kiara fainted and hit her head in dance class. After more tests to monitor Kiara’s heart activity, including a treadmill stress test, the results were inconclusive.

Kiara was then referred to BC Children’s Hospital. Once there, she was diagnosed with a life-threatening heart condition called Catecholaminergic Polymorphic Ventricular Tachycardia—or CPVT for short.

CPVT episodes usually begin in childhood and are characterized by an abnormal heart rhythm in physical activity or emotional stress. These episodes can cause light-headedness, dizziness, and fainting. If not diagnosed and treated, CPVT can lead to cardiac arrest and even death.

At first, this diagnosis was difficult for the Herrera family. Kiara had always been active, with endless activities from swimming to soccer to gymnastics. The thought of her not being able to do what she loved was unbearable.

“I was so upset,” said Claudia, recalling the diagnosis. “I knew that Kiara was looking to me to see how to react—but we both cried the whole way home.”

Although the family was scared about Kiara’s uncertain future with CPVT, the cardiology team at BC Children’s Hospital helped them every step of the way.

“Thank you for taking an awful diagnosis and providing us with information and reassurance that we would be okay,” said Claudia.

Now fifteen years old, Kiara is incredibly grateful for the care she has received.

“Kiara is always put at ease anytime she visits BC Children’s,” Claudia said. “She actually looks forward to her visits and has made great connections with her care team.”

Although it’s been difficult to deal with an invisible illness, Kiara remains strong and determined to lead a normal teenage life. She enjoys singing, acting, and hanging out with friends and her three sisters: Katrina, Kenzie, and Kacey.

No matter what she does in life, Kiara hopes to spread kindness to everyone she meets.

“I think this journey has taught me a lot about life and that I should be grateful for what I have,” Kiara said. “You should be kind to everyone because you can’t always see their pain and you don’t always know what they are going through.”