Lindsay Davis has the flu. She reschedules a phone interview and apologizes profusely for still not feeling well. The average person can take DayQuil to alleviate symptoms like fever, chills and muscle aches. She can’t.
“It’s tough because I can’t really take over-the-counter medications,” she says. “Even ibuprofen can cause arrhythmias.”
The 34-year-old has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Left untreated, it may lead to sudden cardiac arrest, a condition where the heart suddenly stops beating — and usually results in death if it’s not treated immediately.
The former Miss Ohio splits her time between Cleveland and New York, where she works as a model and actress. But while she’s walked the red carpet at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, been featured in ads for United Airlines and thrown out the first pitch at a Cleveland Indians game, her proudest moment was helping pass her namesake piece of legislation.
Lindsay’s Law, which went into effect in 2017, provides guidelines for informing young athletes, their parents and coaches about the warning signs of sudden cardiac arrest — a leading cause of death among seemingly healthy student-athletes.
“People can live long, normal lives with heart disease as long as we catch it early,” Davis says.
Growing up in Lakewood, Davis aspired to be a professional ballerina, training seven days a week by age 17. Despite being in near-perfect shape, she experienced constant fatigue and couldn’t get her heart to stop racing. She fainted multiple times, but coaches and other people around her chalked up the symptoms to hunger or dehydration.
“My mom didn’t believe those explanations. She kept taking me to different doctors,” Davis says. “I was misdiagnosed with everything from asthma to chronic fatigue.”
One day, she collapsed after dance class. Finally, a doctor at the Cleveland Clinic detected a heart murmur and diagnosed her with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
Though her diagnosis ended her dancing career, it piqued her interest in entering beauty pageants as a way to build a platform for heart health advocacy.
“Working on policy reform feels so rewarding because you’re able to help a large group at one time,” she says.
Last October, she traveled to Washington, D.C., on behalf of the American Heart Association, where she urged members of Congress to pass legislation to remove some flavored tobacco products from the market, increase funding for the National Institutes of Health and more.
Up next for Davis is writing a children’s book to continue to educate people on heart condition warning signs and put kids diagnosed with the diseases at ease as they undergo medical procedures.
“I get emails from parents who didn’t know their child had a heart condition thanking me now that they’re aware and they’re able to protect them,” Davis says. “My whole goal with Lindsay’s Law was to just save one life, and it has definitely exceeded that.”