United States of America
Race car driver Bryce Cornet has faced cardiovascular problems head-on. Young and fit, except for occasional spells that began as early as 9 years of age, he was eventually diagnosed in his mid-teens with Supraventricular Tachycardia and Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome, a condition at birth affecting the heart’s rhythm and, in his case, causing its lower chambers (ventricles) to exceed 100 beats per minute.
The dizziness, light-headedness, nausea and other symptoms he felt in class could have been due to anything but who would have thought of a heart ailment, especially in a healthy-looking 15-year-old?
One night, Bryce faced a bout of a sore chest so severe that his parents took him to the emergency room. The diagnosis was acid reflux – true but not the whole story – an EKG to detect potential heart issues was cancelled but would have identified the Wolff-Parkinson-White diagnosis five years sooner.
“That invincible feeling as a teenager was replaced by fear, knowing that my condition can lead to sudden cardiac arrest and death. But after two cardiac ablations – a procedure to fix the heart’s extra electrical pathway causing the problem – I have become more grounded at a young age and determined to help others,” Bryce said.
He is quick to credit a support network, starting with his parents. They encouraged him to not feel awkward or different, and to keep focused on his dreams as long or as challenging as any racetrack.
At six years of age, he began kart racing, with his father in charge of maintenance of his kart, and his mother supporting planning during race weekends. His accolades on the way to turning pro on the racing circuit include a National Championship in an open-wheel series in 2018, Oklahoma’s Driver of the year in 2018 and 2019 by Sports Car Club of America and winner of the 2021 Mazda MX-5 Cup Scholarship.
“My parents were my true cheerleaders. I never felt alone. Unfortunately, not everyone dealing with heart disease has this psychosocial resource. The unwavering help and comfort of my family has been indispensable to my health recovery and success in motorsports,” he said.
Don’t stereotype or make assumptions about heart ailments
Bryce has always been attentive to health and nutrition, making sure to exercise daily, even from an early age. As part of his annual physical check-up, he gets an EKG especially considering his history.
Addressing the issue of costs, coverage and affordability, Bryce emphasised that “EKGs are not difficult or invasive. Regardless of background, gender, age or income, everyone should be able to have an EKG as part of knowing their body, how their heart functions. Many congenital defects are detected later in life and often too late, not like in my case. I am one of the lucky ones. ‘Don’t stereotype ailments of the heart’ is a message he drives home.
When not working full-time as a Senior Manager of Supply Chain Logistics in the electric vehicle industry for Spiers New Technologies (a Cox Automotive Company), he is dedicated to family, friends, and the racetrack. He is increasingly committed to causes that give people a chance to live a life that realizes their fullest potential, and to not be held back by health challenges.
From the early days of diagnosis, not wanting to feel different or talk about it and have people feel sorry for him, Bryce is now a steadfast health advocate, involved with different well-being and wellness groups. He speaks up for cardiovascular health through tirelessly sharing his story. Bryce partnered with the American Heart Association and the Joe Abate Charitable Foundation, supporting fundraising efforts, congenital heart families, and heart health overall.
Vowing to remain involved in motor sports, his ambitions when not behind the wheel of a race car include coaching future drivers and maybe managing his own race team.
“I want to race for as long as I can physically. I have so much passion for the sport. I am fortunate that my heart abnormalities at a young age did not end my career early and I am thankful for the support system that aided a full recovery.”
Bryce’s need for speed clearly involves snowy tracks too as he talked about the ski attractions of Colorado. It is, after all the month of February, and he will be waiting until May for his next motor sports race in Monterrey, California. How does he fit it all in?
“I do stay extremely busy, but I enjoy every minute of the life I am living. The extra motivation and determination to overcome obstacles now makes successes all the more fulfilling. I got a chance for heart-healthy living and I believe everyone should too.”