By Carina Livoti
When 14-year-old dancer Gianna Schulper started fainting during tap routines, her doctor thought it was simply dehydration and exhaustion.
However, after rest and water failed to help, the Dix Hills teenager learned that her fainting spells were caused by a malfunction in her left coronary artery.
“This could have potentially proved fatal, so it turns out that it was her dancing that ultimately saved her life by allowing us to discover, and repair, the problem,” Dr. David Meyer, Schulper’s cardiac surgeon, explained in a press release.
While dancing may have made Schupler aware of the problem, it took a lengthy, open-heart surgery at Cohen’s Children’s Medical Center and a three-month recovery to repair her heart, saving her life.
And all she wanted to keep dancing.
“All I wanted to know was when I could get back to dancing… that’s my whole life,” she said.
Get back to dancing she did—after recovering from surgery, Schupler’s tap dancing earned her the top prize in the Starbound National Dance Competition.
The reigning national champion performed her award-winning routine at a recent event at Dance With Me Studio in Glen Head, proving that her heart was fully mended. After the routine, however, her heart may have skipped a beat, as she was surprised by Val Chmerkovskiy, reigning champion of television’s “Dancing With The Stars.”
Chmerkovskiy is not only a world-famous dancer and part owner of the studio—he is one of Schupler’s dance idols.
As she and the television-star danced, he commended her strength, saying that she was amazing.
“Gianna’s story is very inspiring…she never gave up on her dream. Now I’m really dancing with the stars,” he said