Stories from the Heart: Amber Alonso

If anyone can tell you that heart conditions do not discriminate, it’s Amber Alonso - Tampa Electric’s Human Resources Coordinator for Assessment and Organizational Development. That’s because it happened to her teenage daughter.

Amber Alonso says her daughter Emma (left) was the epitome of health before they discovered a heart issue. 15-year-old Emma underwent heart surgery in April 2021.

“In our family we always discuss that we never would have imagined that Emma would be the one to have a heart issue,” said Amber. “She appeared outwardly very healthy. She was young, ate healthy and loved to exercise.”

Lurking beneath was something putting Emma at risk. “In the spring of 2021, Emma - who was 15 years old at the time - was very active in sports,” recalled Amber. “She ran in cross-country, played soccer and volleyball and danced. Emma started to express that she was feeling dizzy and having chest pains during her cross-country practices and even started to experience fainting spells.”

Doctors chalked it up to physical exertion and lack of proper hydration. It wasn’t until one of Emma’s fainting episodes caused her to black out and become disoriented that a cardiologist was called in. Emma’s Apple Watch history was able to paint a picture during her medical evaluation. “The data included very high resting heart rates,” said Amber. “She was diagnosed with Patent Ductus Arteriosus, HeDs (Vascular Ehlers Danlos Syndrome) which includes a group of inherited disorders that mostly affect the skin, joints and blood vessels."

Emma required heart surgery for the congenital heart defect, which can lead to a life-threatening infection of the heart tissue. “Emma is doing much better since her surgery and is learning how to manage her symptoms and navigate her diagnosis,” shared Amber. “This requires her to be intentional with getting the proper amount of sleep, hydration and monitoring her symptoms.”

Emma had to give up running but is learning how to direct her passions into other sports. “She is now coaching her younger sister’s soccer team and participating in low-impact cardio such as dance and walking,” said Amber. Amber says her daughter’s health scare has made her family realize that heart disorders truly can affect anyone. That’s why she is passionate about heart health awareness. “Lives can be saved through prevention and awareness,” said Amber. “It is important to learn how to identify life-threatening symptoms and to manage risk factors, through heart-healthy eating, regular exercise, monitoring blood pressure, cholesterol and maintaining a healthy weight.”

Post-surgery, Emma remains active through dance, coaching soccer and walking.

Heart health is an important cause for Tampa Electric as our President and CEO Archie Collins is chairing the 2023 Tampa Heart Walk in November as a way to pay tribute to late Vice President of Safety Shawn Copeland. “It means a lot to me that Archie is leading the efforts for Tampa Electric for the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk,” said Amber. “I am honored to work for a company that cares about bringing awareness to our community to help save lives.”

Like Amber, every one of us has a connection, a person, a reason to make a difference when it comes to the #1 and #5 causes of death: heart disease and stroke. So, let's be life-changing and step out together and save some lives. Click here to participate, lead a team and/or donate to the Heart Walk. Then, come walk with us in November!