‘Listen to your heart’: Tampa teenager recovers after heart diagnosis

TAMPA (WFLA) – Ava Morales, 15, of Tampa, looks like a health image.

A Jesuit high school cheerleader, Morales trains several days a week and that’s why, when she felt a throb in her chest, her mother knew she had to get to the bottom of it.

“I just felt my heart beat like every once in a while,” Morales added.

This prompted Ava’s mother, who was once a cardiac nurse, to know it wasn’t something to ignore and contact Ava’s doctor.

“The ECG said something was going on with the right heart, but it wasn’t specific,” said Ava’s mother Cheri Morales.

As part of her physical exam for school sports, Ava had ECGs done at her pediatrician’s office for the past two years, but no concerns were raised.

This time, Ava went to pediatric cardiologist Dr. Jeremy Ringewald to dig deeper.

“The echocardiogram showed what was really going on,” Cheri Morales said.

Ava had what’s called interatrial communication or, in simpler terms, a hole in the middle of the wall between the two upper chambers of the heart.

“This hole allowed additional flow to pass from the left atrium to the right atrium and therefore lead to the enlargement of the right heart chambers,” said Dr Ringewald.

If left unrepaired, it increases the risk of arrhythmia, heart failure, or stroke later in life.

Ava spent a night in the hospital after the operation, but her mother is delighted to have discovered the problem.

“Anything could have happened. She could have collapsed doing some sort of activity and we’re just very lucky that she was finally caught when she was 15, ”says Cheri Morales.

Dr Ringewald implanted a device in Ava’s chest to close the hole and now her future looks brighter than ever.

“Now that it’s over, I just want to be fine again and be able to run again and do whatever I was doing,” Ava said.

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