‘Listen to your heart’: Tampa teen recovering following heart diagnosis

Heart Disease

TAMPA (WFLA) – 15-year-old Ava Morales of Tampa looks like a picture of health. 

A cheerleader at Jesuit High School, Morales works out several days a week and that’s why when she felt a flutter in her chest her mom knew they needed to get to the bottom of it.

“I felt just heart fluttering like every once in a while,” Morales adding “Like I didn’t think anything of it until I started to feel them throughout the day and then when I would feel it would be like more often.”

That prompted Ava’s mom who used to be a cardiac nurse knew this was not something to be ignored and contacted Ava’s doctor.

“The EKG said there was something going on with the right heart but it was nonspecific,” Ava’s mom Cheri Morales said.

As part of her physical for school sports, Ava had EKGs done at her pediatrician’s office the previous 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 an atrial septal defect or in simpler terms, a hole in the middle of the wall between the top two chambers of the heart.

“That hole allowed extra flow to go from the left atrium to the right atrium and therefore lead to enlargement of the right heart chambers,” Dr. Ringewald said.

If it doesn’t get repaired, it leads to an increased risk of arrhythmia, heart failure or stroke later in life.

Ava spent one night in the hospital after surgery but her mom is just thrilled they found the problem.

“Anything could have happened. She could have collapsed doing some type of activity and we’re just very lucky this was finally caught at the age of 15,” says Cheri Morales.

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

 “Now that it’s over with I just want to be fine again and be able to run again and do everything I used to do,” Ava said.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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