Aussie Elka Graham Collapses Twice; Doctors Say She’s Risking Her Life

SYDNEY, June 22. AUSSIE swim star Elka Graham has been told she is putting her life at risk if she continues to swim at the top level, but she says she wants to swim on.

Graham says she is preparing for the fight of her life after collapsing twice in 24 hours after training sessions last week.

Graham has been diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat and low blood pressure. She has also had neurological tests. Doctors are still in the process of determining exactly what is wrong with her, and she has been
advised that she is putting herself at risk by competing at a high level.

Graham was back in the pool on Saturday after being allowed to leave the hospital on Friday night.

Graham first passed out six weeks ago, but did not seek medical help. She was taken to the hospital last Saturday in an ambulance and has been under observation since.

"This has been the hardest week of my 21 years," she said. "Ultimately my health comes first, however, I have a dream for my swimming and I am confident in pursuing (it). I'm hoping that nothing can put a limit on my dreams.

"I know what I am risking and what I am facing and it is my choice to get back in the pool. My life is all about swimming. Swimming is the sport that I love and I don't want to give it away."

Graham was advised earlier in the week that her swimming could be life-threatening. "Hearing that news that I could put my life at risk by swimming was a major shock, but I just have to take each day as it comes.

"This is like one of those cases you hear about in America when a young, fit athlete is competing in a sport and then they die all of a sudden. You think
it is drugs, but it isn't. Maybe they haven't had the problem detected. I'm lucky that at least the doctors know that there is something wrong with me. And I know, too. I have been made aware of the risks and I want to keep going. When it all comes down to it, it is me who is in the pool."

Graham has had nine different procedures since being admitted to the hospital. "Just a week ago I was telling a close friend how life was going so well,"
she said.

"Then this happens. Now I'm lying in a cardiology ward with less than 30 days to go until the world championships are on. It's just been the worst
week of my life."

Graham has had scans on her head and her heart, been operated on for exploratory purposes, had an EEG on her head, had two ultrasounds, a stress test where she was wired-up on a treadmill, a tilt test and has her
temperature taken every two hours of the day and night.

Undeterred, she said: "I'm ready for the fight that this has presented me with and I will beat it."

Ian Thorpe's preparations for next month's world titles were completed in ominous fashion last night when he beat Grant Hackett in the 200 metres
freestyle at the grand prix meeting in Sydney. Thorpe clocked 1:49.95 to Hackett's 1:50.39 at the aquatic centre.

- Danny Weidler, AAP

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