In his late 20s, John Cruz worked in a Brooklyn warehouse, lifting heavy boxes and enjoyed playing football with his nephews in the local park.
Over the next few years, he was hampered by asthma and chest pains—early signs of HCM. Finally doctors at Methodist Hospital discovered an irregular heartbeat and gave John a pacemaker.
When John was 37, he needed an implantable defibrillator to deliver a shock to his heart, when necessary and prevent sudden cardiac death.
Linda Lashen's story is a dramatic one: over 17 sudden deaths in her family in four generations, with no apparent cause.
When a teen-aged cousin died suddenly in 1986, a physician performed an autopsy and discovered an abnormal thickening of the septum associated with HCM.
Later, the family was genetically tested. Three out of six siblings were affected—Linda and her two older brothers John and Michael, though none showed any symptoms at the time.
"With HCM, it isn't easy finding the balance between what you can do, and what might set you back," says Pam Fleischaker. "You have to keep on going and use the energy you have, but you've always got to be careful not to overdo it."
With this philosophy, Pam has succeeded in balancing a demanding career and raising a family, and her son Joey, who also carries the HCM gene, has blazed a trail in the world of sports.