Monica with her daughter, Denisse

It is easy to chance and ignore symptoms when you are not feeling well. Often, we assume feelings of heartburn, pain or nausea will pass with time. However, seeking a higher level of care can have a tremendous impact on one’s long-term quality of life.

This past fall, Monica arrived at Northwest Medical Center’s emergency room with complaints of lower abdominal pain. After being triaged and evaluated, tests ordered by the ER physician indicated rheumatic fever as the cause of symptoms. Considered a very rare infection within the United States, rheumatic fever affects less than 20,000 people per year. According to the CDC, fever, painful and tender joints, fatigue and rash are some common symptoms of rheumatic fever.

“Mainly affecting children, rheumatic fever can develop if strep throat isn’t treated in a timely manner. As a result, recurrent inflammation can eventually attack ones heart valves,” said Jordan Turk, MD, Cardiologist at the Heart and Health Institute in Margate, FL.

Dr. Turk was consulted to assess Monica’s condition and she was diagnosed with mitral valve stenosis. Mitral valve stenosis is a narrowing of the mitral valve opening that blocks blood flow from the left atrium of the heart to the left ventricle. Untreated, it can lead to complications such as pulmonary hypertension. “Initially there are no symptoms, but over time, it causes the heart valves to become scarred, resulting in rheumatic mitral valve stenosis,” said Dr. Turk.

Knowing that Monica needed a higher level of care, Dr. Turk called his colleague Kevin Ergle, MD, Interventional Cardiologist at the Heart & Health Institute’s Westside location in Plantation, Florida.

Northwest Medical Center, part of the HCA Healthcare network of hospitals, transferred Monica to its sister facility, Westside Regional Medical Center, where the Structural Heart team was ready and waiting. Comprised of a collaborative team of Interventional Cardiologists and Cardiothoracic Surgeons, the Structural Heart program at Westside specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions affecting the valves and other vital structures of the heart.

Dr. Ergle determined that Monica would need a Mitral Valvuloplasty. Mitral Valvuloplasty is a procedure used to treat mitral valve stenosis. “By inserting a wire through a vein in the leg and guiding it to the heart, we are able to increase the width of the mitral valve opening and restore normal blood flow to the chamber, essentially “popping open” the narrow valve,” said Dr. Ergle.

“My mother’s journey to recovery began about 2 years ago, when she started having trouble breathing, swelling in her joints and a lack of energy,” said the patient’s daughter, Denisse. "The first procedure she received was a cardiac ablation due to an arrhythmia. We hoped this procedure would improve her health over time, but several months later, she still felt miserable. So we returned to the hospital, where doctors checked her arteries, but there was still no blockage, so we were discharged home. A few weeks later, my mother’s stomach was bothering her and she still didn’t feel well, so we went to Northwest, where they discovered her Mitral Valve was blocked. Thanks to the hospital’s team, we ended up in Dr. Kevin Ergle’s care. He was the most humane, empathetic and sincere doctor we have ever come across. The procedure was a success and my mother feels 100% better now. We will forever be grateful to Dr. Ergle and his care team,” said Denisse.

To learn more about Northwest Medical Center, visit Northwest Med's website or call (954) 601-8094. To learn more about Westside Regional Medical Center’s Structural Heart Program or for a free physician referral, visit Westside Regional's website or call (954) 370-5585.