Distressing footage shows a two-year-old momentarily ‘dying’ in her mother’s arms because her heart stops beating when she gets too upset.
Bethany Davis was filmed going limp during the bizarre episode before her mother, Natalie Davis, 31, lays her down on the ground.
After a couple of seconds, Bethany wakes up again and starts to cry.
The incident, which was captured on a ‘nanny cam’ in the family’s home in Mesa, Arizona, is one of just 12 occasions on which her heart has stopped beating like this.
Fear, sadness or pain can interrupt signals between Bethany’s otherwise healthy brain and heart, causing her to pass out and her heart to stop.
In November 2019, the toddler was diagnosed with a condition called vasovagal syncope, which causes her to lose consciousness in response to a trigger.
This then leads to sinus arrest or pause, in which the sinus node in the heart stops generating the electrical impulses which make the heart beat.
A medical device has recorded her heart stopping for up to five seconds. In longer attacks, Mrs Davis and her husband Paul Davis, 33, have watched in horror as their little girl turns blue and her ‘stiff’ body convulses.
Now the concerned parents fear telling their daughter off or allowing her to play with her siblings or in a day care centre without them there.
Distressing footage shows two-year-old Bethany Davis momentarily ‘dying’ in her mother’s arms – because her heart stops beating when she gets too upset. Natalie Davis, 31, lays her daughter down on the ground so she can recover
This shocking incident is just one of 12 times Bethany, of Mesa Arizona, has ‘died’ because her heart has stopped beating. Cardiology tests (pictured) have found that fear, sadness or pain can trigger a miscommunication between Bethany’s otherwise healthy heart and brain, causing her to pass out and her heart to stop
Mrs Davis and her husband Paul Davis, 33, parents to five children, worry their toddler is being robbed of her childhood as they can’t help but panic every time she wants to run or play
Mrs Davis, a full-time mother, said: ‘It’s the scariest thing. My kid is in my arms lifeless and I can’t help her.
‘When the episodes first started I would go into full panic mode and bawl my eyes out.
‘I’ve always considered myself a calm person but I’d be the crazy person calling 911 and they would have to ask me to calm down because they couldn’t understand me.
‘Before an episode, Bethany gets this panicked look on her face then she just quits breathing. Her whole body goes stiff and she turns blue and sometimes she starts jerking.
‘Her heart has stopped 12 times that we know of. It’s triggered when she gets scared or gets hurt and it can be a big or a little thing that causes it.
‘You can’t surprise her or even yell her name too loud. I’m too scared to ever tell her off.’
Bethany had been completely healthy and happy until suffering her first attack in May last year after bumping her head while playing with her three-year-old sister, Jude.
After rushing over, Mrs Davis watched Bethany suddenly stop crying, stop breathing and collapse, so she frantically phoned for an ambulance.
She said: ‘I’ll never forget the first time Bethany had an episode. It was like any other little bump and she started crying then suddenly she just stopped crying.
Bethany’s episode was triggered when she got upset and started crying
Mrs Davis cradles and lays her daughter down on the ground (pictured) like she has done many times before. After a couple of seconds, Bethany starts to come to and cry
‘Her mouth dropped open and she stopped making any noise and then she just quit breathing.’
When the ambulance arrived just three minutes later, Bethany was back to normal and tests showed her vitals were good.
After a trip to urgent care, doctors put the episode down as a breath-holding spell and told Mr and Mrs Davis not to worry as Bethany would likely ‘grow out of it’.
After another incident at the start of September, Bethany was referred to a neurologist who couldn’t find anything wrong with the little girl’s brain, leading him to the same conclusion.
It is not uncommon for children to hold their breath when they are afraid or upset and some might do it for so long that they faint.
Bethany has always been completely healthy and happy until her first attack in May last year after bumping her head while playing with her sister Jude, three. She bumped her head and suddenly collapsed, something doctors put down to a ‘breath-holding spell’
Bethany’s parents described the terror of hearing their children call for them because “Bethany’s dead” when the she has had an episode in front of her scared and confused siblings. Pictured L-R, Triston Matthews, 13, Bethany, Jude Davis, three, and Lily Davis, 10
WHAT IS VASOVAGAL SYNCOPE AND SINUS PAUSE?
Vasovagal syncopy is common and can affect anyone. It means that the blood pressure drops too low and makes the patient faint.
Between 1.8 and four per cent of people are thought to suffer from some sort of fainting condition and vasovagal syncope is the most common.
Although the exact cause is not fully understood, it is often a temporary problem affecting the autonomic nervous system – the body’s control centre.
Certain triggers affect the nerve messages which cause the heart rate and blood pressure to lower.
This can make the person feel weak, nauseous, sweaty and light-headed which then can lead to loss of consciousness. This can happen without any warning.
Sinus arrest or pause, in which a part of the heart called the sinus node does not generate electrical impulses, can last from a couple of seconds to several minutes.
Electrical impulses from the sinus node normally stimulate the heart tissue to contract and thus the heart to beat. When these impulses aren’t generated, the heart stops beating. The signals are usually restored within seconds.
Mrs Davis said: ‘The second time, she was walking towards me upset with her arms out ready for a hug and she just collapsed and turned blue.
‘When the hospital and the neurologist told us they were breath-holding spells and she would grow out of them, I felt like a crazy person because I knew something else was wrong.
‘It was like we were being told there was nothing they could do and Bethany would just keep having these episodes.’
Mrs Davis was convinced there was something more going on and pushed for Bethany to be referred to a cardiologist.
Tests revealed a glitch in the communication between Bethany’s heart and brain when she experienced even the smallest amount of fear or pain.
Mrs Davis said: ‘When we got the referral to the cardiologist it was a huge relief because he didn’t think it was breath-holding and he was taking it seriously but didn’t think it was anything too serious.
‘Then he called to tell us they’d recorded Bethany’s heart had stopped for 4.8 seconds during an episode and 2.7 seconds while she was asleep and it terrified me.
‘Such a small number of seconds seems like nothing normally but when it’s your baby’s heart stopping it’s a big deal.
‘It’s like a reset button. There’s a miscommunication between her brain and her heart and her heart stops. Then her brain sends a signal to get it going again.’
Bethany was diagnosed in November with a form of fainting called vasovagal syncope.
A medical device has recorded Bethany’s heart stopping for up to five seconds. She is pictured with her sister, Jude, three
Tests (pictured) revealed a glitch in the communication between Bethany’s heart and brain when she experiences even the smallest amount of fear or pain
Bethany had surgery on January 3 to place a loop recorder implant in her chest to feed the medics information 24/7 on Bethany’s heart rate
It causes the body to overreact to certain triggers, such as extreme emotional distress, the sight of blood or standing for long periods of time.
The heart rate slows, causing blood pressure to drop lower. This then reduces blood flow to the brain and causes the person to faint.
This, doctors say, makes her heart stop, a condition known as sinus arrest or pause. The sinus node in the heart stops generating the electrical impulses the heart needs to function.
Electrical impulses from the sinus node normally stimulate the heart tissue to contract and make the organ beat. When these impulses aren’t generated, the heart stops beating, which can last for between a couple of seconds and several minutes.
Sinus arrest is more common in young people when they experience emotional distress.
Bethany had surgery on January 3 to place a loop recorder implant in her chest to feed the medics 24/7 data about her heart rate.
If the toddler’s heart stops, Mrs Davis has a special device which she holds over her daughter’s heart to send the hospital an alert.
If Bethany’s heart begins to stop for extended periods of time, she may need a pacemaker fitted but her parents are determined to exhaust all other options before such a ‘life-changing’ surgery.
Mrs Davis said: ‘We’re praying it won’t come to that. Bethany’s heart is healthy and fitting a pacemaker will turn her heart to garbage. It’s a life-changing surgery.
‘And they only last 10 years at best so she’d need another one at 12 then another at 22. That’s a whole lifetime of major surgeries.’
Bethany may one day need a pacemaker. But this is the last option, Mrs Davis said
Bethany lives with her parents, oldest brother Triston Matthews, 13, sisters Lily Davis, 10, and Jude Davis, three, and baby brother Elijah Davis, seven months.
Bethany’s parents described the terror of hearing their children call for them because ‘Bethany’s dead’ when she has had an episode in front of her scared and confused siblings.
Mrs Davis said: ‘There have been times me and Paul haven’t been in the room and our other kids come out screaming “Bethany’s dead, she’s dead” because she’s having an episode and they don’t understand. It’s so scary.
‘It’s hard for her and it’s hard for our other children because they don’t understand and feel like all our attention is on Bethany.
‘It sucks. We can’t sent her to daycare and I can’t get a job because I wouldn’t trust anybody else with her.
‘I worry about her all the time. It’s robbing her of her childhood.
‘If she’s running or playing and trips even a tiny bit, I jump up and gasp because I’m scared she’s going to have an episode.
‘I’m too scared to let her away from my side at the park or go on play dates. When she’s in her room, I’m constantly checking the camera we have in there to make sure she’s okay.’
The parents have installed cameras around their home so they can monitor Bethany at all times and rush to her if she suddenly collapses.
Now, Mr and Mrs Davis want to get Bethany a medical support dog trained to alert them before an attack and keep her calm during and after the episodes.
While a kind breeder has offered to donate a golden retriever puppy, Mrs Davis and Mr Davis, a supervise, are unable to cover the $7,000 (£5,389) needed for specialist dog training and have set up a fundraising page.
Mrs Davis said: ‘Once he’s trained, the dog will be able to alert us up to 45 minutes before Bethany is likely to have an episode and try to keep her calm.
‘During an episode he’ll lie on her to keep her on her side so she doesn’t swallow her tongue or choke and then keep her calm after the episode when she is really disoriented.’
To donate to Bethany’s GoFundMe page click here.