PLAINS TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — High cholesterol is a problem many of us live with and address by diet and lifestyle changes. But elevated cholesterol issues are something hundreds of thousands of Americans are born with.
That’s exactly the case of a local firefighter. He is sharing his story about family tragedy and vigilance to help others who may not know about the genetic condition.
Whether he’s responding to a car crash or some other emergency, Stephen Motil needs to be prepared. That’s the same approach the Plains Township firefighter took after learning what claimed his grandfather’s life and caused his father to undergo cardiac bypass surgery for six blockages at age 32.
“As I got closer to that age where that happened to him I said I don’t ever want to have to worry about going through this,” said Stephen Motil.
What Motil’s father and the father’s sisters unknowingly lived with for years is a genetic condition called familial hypercholesterolemia or FH for short. It raises the LDL or bad cholesterol which the liver makes to extremely high levels. It doesn’t matter how much they restrict their diet, how much they exercise, or if they take a daily cholesterol-lowering medicine.
“Statin medication in itself can’t control it. I was on it for a long period of time,” said Motil.
Despite taking a daily statin since he was a pre-teen, his cholesterol levels skyrocketed, Motil said his numbers were just shy of 500.
Motil’s Geisinger nurse practitioner began caring for him about a decade ago.
“We estimate about 90 percent are not diagnosed so awareness is the key,” said Caroline deRichemond who is a CRNP Certified Lipid Specialist at Geisinger.
She says getting diagnosed is so vital because of treatment breakthroughs in the past few years.
Motil says, “It’s just like an EpiPen. You take it twice a month.”
Motil began taking the injectable medication in 2015 after the FDA approved it.
“It took his LDL from 175 down to 77 and that’s where he remains today,” says deRichemond.
The 34-year-old Motil and his wife, Amanda, have a 14-month-old daughter, Nora. Their future looks bright.
“There’s high hopes that I should never have to go through what my dad has gone through or anybody else in our family,” said Motil.
Nora will be tested at age 5 for FH. For others with FH who go untreated, half of all men will have a heart attack by age 50 and about 1 in 3 women will suffer one by age 60.
To learn more about FH awareness you can visit the FH Foundation website.