A former triathlon champion has discovered a new passion for music and photography after being diagnosed with a heart condition
Sixteen-year-old Frank Arentz immersed his whole life in sport and was an outstanding rugby player until doctors told him to stop strenuous physical activity immediately.
A medical test revealed the Monmouth School pupil had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), an inherited disease which causes the muscle wall of the heart to thicken.
About 1 in 500 people in the UK have HCM and symptoms, if any, include shortness of breath, chest pain, palpitations, light headedness and fainting. If left undiagnosed and untreated, the condition can lead to sudden death.
It was a life-changing moment for sports-mad Frank who played tennis, squash and football at a competitive level. However, the inspirational teenager is now learning to play the guitar and the piano and takes sports photographs to capture his friends and former team-mates in action.
He is also campaigning about the importance of heart screening for the general population.
“My whole life was based around sport,” said Frank, who won the National Sprint Triathlon Championship for his age category in 2015.
“I grew up with intense sport being a huge part of my life. My family is very active with my brother Finn a very serious triathlete, competing in Iron Man Wales and numerous other events.”
Frank’s heart condition was picked up when he and his family went for testing with a charity called CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young).
“My entire family passed with no problems but I came up as an anomaly,” he said.
“After having numerous tests I was told to stop playing my intense sport. It was a huge shock to me because I had expected a positive outcome. I was in the changing rooms when I told my team-mates I wouldn’t be playing and explained why.
“They expressed their concerns and were disappointed in losing a team-mate and as they went on to win the game, the realisation sank in. That day will never leave my memory.”
Frank had been expecting a new bike as a present last Christmas but instead asked his parents for a sports photography camera.
“I decided to try to find the positive outcomes of my diagnosis of HCM by capturing many unforgettable images,” he said.
“I have learnt a few pieces on the piano and I love learning how to play the guitar. I see this as a new side to me which may not have materialised if it wasn’t for the diagnosis.”
Frank is also involved in sports coaching so he can pass on his knowledge and enthusiasm to younger pupils at the school.
“Coaching has allowed me to take part in sport but on a different level,” he said.
“I enjoy being able to pass on my sporting knowledge to lower years’ students and seeing them improve from my efforts. This is certainly a hobby I would like to have when I am older.”
The Monmouth schoolboy has decided to try his hand at a new sport and taken up golf with his father. He is aiming to secure a place in the school team.
“The thing I found the hardest to deal with was realising I had a lifelong condition which was potentially life threatening,” he said.
“I truly believe the number one thing to remember is to think of what you can do rather than what you can’t do. I never would have taken up photography, golf or music if it wasn’t for this diagnosis and I would probably have end up in hospital with lifelong injuries if I was to continue my love for rugby.
“I still fully immerse in the rugby and triathlon world by watching it on television and supporting events and games in person or with a camera.”
Frank, who is from Pembrokeshire, added: “I am now living happily with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and working hard in my studies while looking forward to a summer holiday full of golf, guitar and photography.”
You can see Frank Arentz’s sports photography page on Instagram: @frank.arentz_photography