Because cardiomyopathy -- and heart conditions in general -- are rare in children, they often masquerade as a benign respiratory illness and get misdiagnosed. They can manifest as weakness, difficulty in breathing, or vomiting, making them seem like pneumonia, asthma or a gastrointestinal condition, says Pearce, who says that most of his patients come to him after they've been misdiagnosed by their pediatricians.
A study of children who were treated for cardiomyopathy at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York found that that they'd had an average of two to three misdiagnoses before their heart condition was correctly identified, says Dr. Barry Love, a pediatric cardiologist at Mount Sinai.
"It's a challenge with pediatric heart problems, because when a kid comes in with respiratory symptoms, it's infinitely more likely that they do have a respiratory problem, not a heart problem, but this means that kids usually don't get the right diagnoses until they are quite sick," Love says.
"The take-home message is that benign respiratory illness usually resolves itself after a while," Love says, "so if your child is not responding to treatment, then you need to investigate their illness further."
And luckily for Greer, that's what her parents did.