Armonnie (Monnie) hawkins
Being in the NBA was Monnie's dream, but he continues to discover more options.
Armonnie (Monnie) is a 13-year-old boy from Canton, Ohio, diagnosed with a heart murmur at birth. He was born prematurely (at 30 weeks) in 2009 and spent the first days of his life in the NIC Unit. Doctors assured his mother, Nicole, that he would "grow out of it."
Growing up, Monnie had always been very athletic. He especially loved playing basketball. He started playing at four years old and at nine he began playing year-round at AAU as a point guard.
In 2022, while in the 7th grade, Monnie developed a love for football, and he played wide receiver for his school’s football program. His plan was to continue playing football when he entered the 8th grade in the Fall.
In August of 2022, Nicole took Monnie for his routine physical before entering the 8th grade. During the physical, the doctor detected a heart murmur. In the years since Monnie was born, doctors never mentioned hearing a murmur, so Nicole assumed all was well. She was told to follow up with a cardiologist before Monnie could get the clearance to play football.
The cardiologist ordered an echocardiogram, cardiac MRI and a stress test, and Monnie was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). He never had any symptoms. Occasionally he would experience shortness of breath, but Nicole attributed this to his diagnosis years earlier of asthma (which was confirmed by a pulmonary function test).
According to Nicole, the cardiologist said that Monnie should be restricted from all physical activity and that she needed to bring him back in a year for a re-check. "That didn't sit well with me. They gave me a life-altering diagnosis for my child and didn't want to see him for another year?"
It also didn't sit well with Monnie. He was angry that he couldn't play sports with his peers and that his dream of being in the NBA had vanished.
Nicole reflects, "If Monnie had been diagnosed earlier, it would still be devastating to me but an easier transition for him. He wouldn't have had a chance to become invested in the athletic activities now being taken away from him. I cried a lot when he was diagnosed. I would check on him all night. Seeing him hurt and not being able to do what he loves to do was heartbreaking for me. When you are a mom, and your child is sick or hurting, you want to take it away from them. This is something I can't take away from him."
Nicole started researching HCM. "I'm the type of mom that, if a doctor tells me something and I don't know what it means, I research it. I don't take what a doctor says at face value; I educate myself." She knew she had to advocate for her son and that she needed to get a second opinion. She found the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Association (HCMA) Facebook page and joined.
She found support and resources through the HCMA Facebook page and website and learned about HCMA-recognized Centers of Excellence (COE) for HCM patients. Nicole scheduled an intake appointment and a navigation call with Lisa Salberg from the HCMA to discuss her son's treatment options. She made an appointment with a COE in Cleveland and now feels that the experience of getting the proper care from doctors that really know about HCM has been excellent. Monnie had genetic testing done, and a gene mutation that was identified. Identifying the gene made it possible for other family members to be tested.
Since his diagnosis, Monnie has started to fill his free time with music and has become an avid gamer. He loves the drums and is exceptionally good at them. He was accepted into the "Kent State Rising Scholars'' program, and his essay for admissions included telling about his HCM diagnosis. Students who successfully complete the high-school portion of the program are eligible to apply for a Rising Scholars Scholarship at Kent State University. Being in the NBA was Monnie's dream, but he continues to discover more options.
Monnie made the news!
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To learn more about accessing care at a HCMA Recognized Center of Excellence, go to https://4hcm.org/center-of-excellence/.
To learn more about hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), go to https://www.4hcm.org.
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