Published: October 7, 2015
Growing up, Carmen Malouf Florek was the epitome of someone who, by all accounts, appeared to be in excellent health.
Raised in a household with three brothers, she played and excelled in a variety of sports and even earned the distinction of being the first female in her home state of Mississippi to join a traditionally all-male baseball team.
“Carmen was very intelligent and very much of a tomboy,” said her mother, Salwa Malouf. “In her senior year in high school, she won the Bruin Award for being the smartest and most athletic person in her class.”
Florek went on to attend the University of South Florida, where she played on the women’s soccer team, performed on the track and field team and in 2000 earned a degree in mass communications.
Nothing could have prepared her for what occurred while back in her hometown of Jackson to attend a family wedding shortly after her graduation.
Before the ceremony, Florek went for a run in one of the city’s parks when suddenly she felt nauseous and subsequently fainted. The following day a doctor at a nearby walk-in clinic surmised she was asthmatic.
But when she returned to Tampa and sought the medical advice of other physicians, including USF Health cardiologists, she received an entirely different diagnosis.
At age 23, Florek learned she has a genetic arrhythmic disorder, a condition in which her heart beats irregularly.
She immediately underwent surgery in which she which received an implantable cardioverter defibrillator able to monitor and detect an abnormal heartbeat and, if necessary, deliver an electric shock to restore it to normalcy.
Thanks to medication and her ICD manufactured by Medtronic — a major producer of medical devices with operational headquarters in Fridley, a suburb of Minneapolis — Florek is back to living an active life.
Florek’s youngest brother, Matthew Malouf, who was in Tampa before her surgery and accompanied his sister on many of her doctors’ visits, describes her as a person who is always game for trying new things and is also good at everything she does.
“She’s always doing something, and I often tell her to slow down,” he said.
Two years ago, the now 39-year-old Carmen married Brian Florek, and they are expecting their first child.
She continues to work out, teach a Pilates class and travel with few limitations.
In fact, Carmen and Brian just returned from Minneapolis-St. Paul, where she joined 24 others from throughout the world who earlier this year were named 2015 Medtronic Global Heroes.
She and the others — both men and women who all have implanted Medtronic devices — were invited to participate in the 2015 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon and/or the Medtronic TC 10-mile walk.
Florek opted to only take part in the latter event.
But her main focus was on the following day’s opportunity to tell her story during a Medtronic cardiac division symposium.
“They are the people who are creating the equipment that saved me,” said Carmen, who about two years ago contacted the company and volunteered to be a spokesperson for the four Medtronic ICDs she’s had placed in her chest since her diagnosis. …