Ex-NFL Cheerleader Diagnosed Own Rare Condition After Doctors Dismissed Symptoms

By Zachary Stieber

A former cheerleader for the NFL said that she educated herself and diagnosed her own rare condition after doctors dismissed her symptoms.

Danielle Goldsmith was a cheerleader for the St. Louis Rams and loved to engage in physical activities in her off time.

But on a hiking trip in Colorado in August, she suddenly felt something was wrong.

“I remember looking at my boyfriend and saying I can’t breathe. I can’t see anything. I can’t hear anything. It was an out of body experience,” Goldsmith told Fox 2.

For the next several months, she’d experience painful episodes that included severe chest pain, shortness of breath, and paralysis. The symptoms “are preventing Danielle from living her day-to-day life,” a friend wrote in a GoFundMe fundraiser that was started around one month ago.

Doctors she went to told her she was crazy.

“When medical professionals are saying I was crazy, and had anxiety and panic attacks and not to worry about it, and in my mind when you’re told that by medical professionals you start thinking ‘Am I crazy?’” she said.

But she thought she could figure out what was wrong with her. Through research, she pinpointed pectus excavatum.

She told doctors of her self-diagnosis but two tests were negative. The third test was positive after doctors decided to do a standing eco-cardiogram, instead of testing her while she was lying down.

Still, there were no doctors in the St. Louis area who could do the surgery she needed. So through further research, she found a doctor in Phoenix.

“They drill 4 holes in your sternum, put a crane in and lift your chest off your heart and lungs,” she said.

She urged people to do their own research and not always rely on what doctors tell them, adding, “If medical professionals don’t know enough about your health, you do your own research.”

Background and Future

Pectus excavatum “is a congenital disorder, which causes the chest to have a sunken or ‘caved in’ appearance,” according to the University of California San Francisco Department of Surgery.

The cause of the disorder is not known but experts do know that it can run in families, with up to 25 percent of patients reporting chest wall abnormalities in other family members.

Though Goldsmith underwent a successful surgery, she has a long road ahead.

According to the GoFundMe, Goldsmith was set to stay in Phoenix for up to one month after the surgery and would need to start rehabilitative therapy afterward.

“This surgery places titanium bars to hold her chest in the corrected position. She will need to return to Phoenix at 3, 6, and 12 months following the surgery to monitor progress and eventually remove the bars from her chest,” the friend wrote.

Asking for donations, the friend added: “Danielle is the most kind, caring, and giving person I’ve ever been blessed to know. … If anyone knows Danielle, they know how much she loves her job at Concero Technology Group and how she cannot wait to be healthy enough to return to work.”