Billerica teen passed out while driving and it may have saved her life

Billerica teen passed out while driving and it may have saved her life

BILLERICA, Mass. — Shelby Bourdeau feels so fortunate to be able to lace-up her basketball sneakers once again.

“I’m a three-sport varsity athlete and what I have almost kills every athlete that has it. It’s usually found on an autopsy,” she said.

The 18-year-old, who is a senior at Shawsheen Valley Technical High School in Billerica, passed out behind the wheel while driving home from a soccer game in 2019.

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“The days that followed were just constant hospital visits seeing if it was my head or my heart or something else. It did end up being my heart,” Bourdeau said.

Doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital discovered Shelby had a right coronary artery abnormality. It was something she was born with, but she and her parents had no idea since there’s no family history of heart disease.

Shelby Bourdeau learned she had a coronary artery abnormality after passing out while driving home in 2019.
Shelby Bourdeau learned she had a coronary artery abnormality after passing out while driving home in 2019. (Bourdeau family)

“I’m a nurse, so I thought I would’ve picked up on something, but she had exercise-induced asthma forever, so we just assumed it was asthma and then when she fainted it they said it was most likely a heart issue all along,” said Jennifer Bourdeau, Shelby’s mother

Turns out it wasn’t asthma. It was actually a lack of blood moving from Shelby’s heart to her lungs.

On Valentine’s Day 2020, she underwent a delicate, six-hour heart surgery at the Cleveland Clinic.

Doctors made a bigger opening in Shelby’s right coronary artery so she would have more blood flow.

“I can’t even describe how much of a difference I feel because I constantly couldn’t breathe on the court and I said I don’t understand I’m in shape. Just to have that surgery in my first game back for basketball I was in tears after because I could feel it I could live up to my potential now in athletics,” she said.

Shelby Bourdeau learned she had a coronary artery abnormality after passing out while driving home in 2019.
Shelby Bourdeau learned she had a coronary artery abnormality after passing out while driving home in 2019. (Bourdeau family)

Shelby received a clean bill of health and is competing in soccer, basketball, and track and field for her high school.

She hopes to attend Worcester State University to study nursing and play basketball.