Ambassador Highlight: Meet Nick
Nick Mullen was just 2 years old when he was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition where the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick, making it harder for the heart to pump blood and causing abnormal heart rhythms. Up until age 10, he simply took a daily medication to help his heart beat slowly and easily and lived life like any other boy.
The Mullen family – Jodi, Nick’s mother; Scott, Nick’s father and Nick’s siblings Kaylee and Randy; had moved to Gainesville from Ohio in December 2011. Upon arrival, Nick began receiving his heart care from Jay Fricker, M.D., chief of pediatric cardiology and medical director at the Congenital Heart Center.
Fricker ordered an MRI of Nick’s heart in the summer of 2012. The results showed the size of Nick’s heart put him at risk for developing a sudden and potentially fatal heart rhythm.
“Had we not come to UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital and started seeing Dr. Fricker, Nick might not have received a cardiac MRI,” Jodi said. That procedure wasn’t available at their previous hospital.
Soon, the Mullen family became part of the Congenital Heart Center family. Nick saw pediatric electrophysiologist, Randall Bryant, M.D., who comes from Jacksonville to Gainesville regularly to see patients. Bryant recommended that Nick have an internal defibrillator placed under his skin with tiny wires attached to his heart. Any life-threatening heart rhythm could be shocked back to a normal rhythm if necessary.
Because of Nick’s hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, he visits Fricker and Bryant regularly, and in September 2012, he received the internal defibrillator.
At 14, Nick remains a very social and positive guy. Because of his heart condition, he is not allowed to participate in a number of sports like baseball, soccer or basketball. This makes Nick sad because he loves these games — especially basketball — and is pretty good at throwing a ball.
On the positive side, Nick goes bowling every Saturday with a Gainesville youth league and participates in one to two tournaments each year throughout the state of Florida. This summer, he will compete in Florida State Youth Bowler’s tournament. Additionally, he graduated from eighth grade earlier this month with a 3.3 GPA. He received the Altrusa International Literacy Award for his middle school, which recognizes an eighth-grade student each year who makes tremendous strides in reading.
Nick particularly enjoys being involved with Dance Marathon at the University of Florida. He has met many amazing college students who dedicate their time and energy to raising money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. Nick loves to hang out with the “big kids,” and they treat him like a rock star, according to his mother.
“Nick is proud to be a Children’s Miracle Network ambassador,” Jodi said. “He wants to help other kids and support the hospital that saved his life.”