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Published: Saturday, 6/16/2007

Local woman heart smart in state crown bid

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Cousino Cousino
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Soon after the Miss Ohio 2007 Pageant ends in Mansfield tonight, contestant Emily Cousino likely will need to get a defibrillator implanted in her chest to monitor her heart rhythm and administer shocks if needed.

But thinking about the genetic heart condition that killed her grandfather at 55, affects her mother, and plagues her little sister hasn't affected the 22-year-old Lourdes College senior's pageant run this week at the Renaissance Theatre.

Having Long QT syndrome, a disorder of the heart's electrical system, may have even given her an advantage over other contestants during the pageant's interview stage, since she is pushing to improve education about sudden cardiac arrest and for the installation of automated external defibrillators at gas stations, golf courses, workplaces, and other public places, she reasoned this week.

"I think it makes me more passionate than anything," she said by phone from Mansfield, where the pageant is held.

She added, "People don't realize how many people cardiac arrest affects."

Miss Cousino, who hails from Whiteford Township, Michigan and was Miss Junior America in 2003, did not win any preliminary rounds for the pageant this week.

But the preart therapy major, who expects to get her degree in August from Lourdes in Sylvania, already has won a full-ride scholarship for nursing school from the Miss America Organization, she said.

Miss Cousino was named Miss Mansfield last year a few months after winning the scholarship, which she plans to use to attend Monroe Community College. That title secured her entry into the Miss Ohio 2007 Pageant.

"We are so very proud of just how far she's been," said her mother, Beth Cousino. "She wanted it, and she just went after it."

Mrs. Cousino soon will have a defibrillator implanted in her chest because of Long QT syndrome, following in the footsteps of her youngest child, Mary, 16, she said.

Mary was the first in the family to be diagnosed with the condition about 10 years ago, and her health has improved since she had a defibrillator implanted last year, Mrs. Cousino said.

Genetic testing determined Mrs. Cousino and Miss Cousino have the condition, while Mrs. Cousino's 28-year-old son, Eric, does not. A doctor reviewed test results for her late father, Ralph French, that showed he also had the syndrome, Mrs. Cousino said.

Miss Cousino takes medication for her heart and knows how to handle stress and excitement, but occasionally her mother has worried as she competes, she admitted.

The first thing Mrs. Cousino checks is whether there is an automated external defibrillator nearby, she said.

"Every now and then I get a twinge, and I put it to the back of my mind," Mrs. Cousino said.

The Cousino family and friends have been converging on Mansfield for the competition and plan to attend the final show tonight.

Other local women competing for the Miss Ohio crown include Becky Minger of Sylvania and Lauren Hogan of Napoleon.

Miss Ohio will vie for the title of Miss America next year.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:

jmckinnon@theblade.com

or 419-724-6087.



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