YouTube watchers are mourning the unexpected death of Caleb Bratayley at the age of 13. The Bratayleys are a popular YouTube vlogging family of 5. Parents Katie and Billie L. (Bratayley is not their real last names) have 3 children: Caleb 13, Hayley 11, and Annie 7. They are known for their goofy videos about their everyday lives, such as this one, an introduction to their family:
On their YouTube channel, Katie wrote:
“October 1st at 7:08PM Caleb Logan Bratayley passed away of natural causes. This has come as a shock to all of us. Words cannot describe how much we will miss him. His incredibly funny, loving and wonderful spirit made us all fall in love with him as a YouTuber, friend, brother and son. We know you tune in to watch each day and eagerly anticipate new videos, but ask that you bear with us while we deal with this tragedy as a family. Please help us honor our, baked potato [Caleb’s nickname].”
In response to many fan questions, Katie wrote:
“Caleb’s death has raised many questions about how and why this could happen to a seemingly healthy boy. Sadly, tests have confirmed today that Caleb passed away from an undetected medical condition. We’ll have more definitive answers in the coming weeks but ask that you help us celebrate his life instead of focus on his death. Due to an outpouring of support and people’s hope to be part of his memorial, we have decided to live-stream the ceremony tomorrow at 8pm EDT. Additional information below. Thank you for all your kindness during this difficult time.”
It has come to light today that there is a family history of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a frequently asymptomatic heart condition that can cause sudden death. It has not been confirmed that this was the cause of Caleb’s death.
What is Cardiomyopathy?
Cardiomyopathy refers to diseases of the heart muscle. These diseases have many causes, signs and symptoms, and treatments.
In cardiomyopathy, the heart muscle becomes enlarged, thick, or rigid. In rare cases, the muscle tissue in the heart is replaced with scar tissue.
As cardiomyopathy worsens, the heart becomes weaker. It’s less able to pump blood through the body and maintain a normal electrical rhythm. This can lead to heart failure or irregular heartbeats called arrhythmias. In turn, heart failure can cause fluid to build up in the lungs, ankles, feet, legs, or abdomen.
Cardiomyopathy can be acquired or inherited. “Acquired” means you aren’t born with the disease, but you develop it due to another disease, condition, or factor. “Inherited” means your parents passed the gene for the disease on to you. Many times, the cause of cardiomyopathy isn’t known.
Cardiomyopathy can affect people of all ages. However, people in certain age groups are more likely to have certain types of cardiomyopathy. This article focuses on cardiomyopathy in adults.
What is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy?
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is very common and can affect people of any age. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy affects men and women equally, and about 1 out of every 500 people has the disease.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy happens when the heart muscle enlarges and thickens without an obvious cause. Usually the ventricles, the lower chambers of the heart, and septum (the wall that separates the left and right side of the heart) thicken. The thickened areas create narrowing or blockages in the ventricles, making it harder for the heart to pump blood. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy also can cause stiffness of the ventricles, changes in the mitral valve, and cellular changes in the heart tissue.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy usually is inherited. It’s caused by a mutation or change in some of the genes in heart muscle proteins. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy also can develop over time because of high blood pressure, aging, or other diseases, such as diabetes or thyroid disease. Sometimes the cause of the disease isn’t known.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Cardiomyopathy?
Some people who have cardiomyopathy never have signs or symptoms. Others don’t have signs or symptoms in the early stages of the disease.
As cardiomyopathy worsens and the heart weakens, signs and symptoms of heart failure usually occur. These signs and symptoms include:
Shortness of breath or trouble breathing, especially with physical exertion
Swelling in the ankles, feet, legs, abdomen, and veins in the neck
Other signs and symptoms may include dizziness; light-headedness; fainting during physical activity; arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats); chest pain, especially after physical exertion or heavy meals; and heart murmurs. (Heart murmurs are extra or unusual sounds heard during a heartbeat.)
Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.
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