SCIENTIST Mike Dodd began a career to fight a life-threatening heart condition after being told he might develop the illness himself.
As a teenager doctors told him he carried the gene which causes hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) and that sparked an interest in the heart and how it works.
The 28-year-old said: “It was scary. This is a condition that can cause sudden cardiac deaths.
“You can be playing sport or doing something and you get a speeding up on your heart and you can literally drop dead.”
The condition means sufferers have an irregular thickness of the heart.
Former Oxford United player Mitchell Cole retired from the sport in 2011 after being diagnosed, but died of a heart attack aged 27 in 2012.
Dr Dodd, who used to live in Cholsey, said he and his brother Chris were told they had inherited the gene when dad Ian was diagnosed with the condition.
He added: “I was 14 when my dad went to the doctors and he realised he had something wrong.
“He had palpitations. His heart would skip beats and he could feel his heart really beating in his chest.
“Me and my brother were then stopped from doing any exercise until we got monitored.”
Being told about the condition got Dr Dodd interested in the heart and he went on to study biochemistry at the University of Bath before doing a Phd in cardio vascular medicine at the University of Oxford and researching the illness.
He said: “I remember at school when I found out about this I wanted to find out more about the heart. That’s when I got really interested.
“I took an interest in it and felt I had a personal connection to it. It sounds cheesy but it was finally a choice to follow my heart.”
He now researches the condition and heart disease in general for the university and is based at Headington’s John Radcliffe Hospital and the physiology department.
Dr Dodd, who now lives in Burdell Avenue, Sandhills, with his wife, undergoes ultrasound tests on his heart every year. So far there are no signs that he will develop the condition.
He said: “At the moment my heart appears normal, so I may develop symptoms later in life and I may not.
“It is a scary thing but I felt reassured by the constant monitoring.”
But Dr Dodd said he has to be careful and that any strenuous exercise could be the “tipping point”.
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