For most 14-year-old girls, a school dance brings excitement and anticipation. For Ceirra Moss, it was the beginning of a long, unexpected journey that eventually led her to UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute.
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An Unlikely Diagnosis
Ceirra didn’t think her rapid heartbeat was anything serious. It was her first formal school dance and she thought, “I guess this is what it feels like when you dance with a boy.” But her pounding heart didn’t disappear. The next morning, her discomfort became a crushing chest pain that radiated from her elbows to her shoulders. She blacked out.
Her parents rushed her to the hospital. After an evaluation and blood work, Ceirra was told she was experiencing anxiety. The attending doctor encouraged her to be seen at a children’s hospital that same evening. More tests there showed it was a myocardial infraction (heart attack).
“I went into surgery without knowing I even had a heart attack. I was told it was caused by a blood clot that traveled through a hole in the center of my heart, closing one of the arteries,” Ceirra says.
During her procedure, a percutaneous mesh closure device was inserted at the hole in her heart.
For years, the surgery appeared to have done its job until the summer of 2020 when Ceirra started feeling ill. Now a young adult, she felt groggy, short of breath, and she knew her heart was working a lot harder.
She also was planning her wedding. She knew deep down she needed to see her cardiologist.
A second opinion led to an important first step toward recovery.
Ceirra learned she had severe mitral valve regurgitation or a leaky valve. This condition occurs when the heart’s mitral valve does not close completely. It results in blood leaking back into the left atrium when the left ventricle contracts.
Although her condition was described as severe, her former cardiologist suggested she take medicine and be revaluated in six months. This didn’t sit well with either Ceirra or her future husband.
“I was having symptoms that were ruining my life. I literally could not function normally and plan a wedding. That’s when we decided to get a second opinion,” she says.
Scott Riebel, MD, cardiologist, UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute at UPMC Lititz, met Ceirra and knew immediately she needed treatment. He noticed she was having trouble catching her breath just walking across the room. Her examination revealed a loud heart murmur, prompting Dr. Riebel to order a new echocardiogram. He saw evidence of the previous heart attack and significant mitral valve problems.
“I knew the valve needed to be fixed and told her she might need mitral valve surgery. I also knew the team at UPMC Harrisburg, led by Mubashir Mumtaz, MD, chief of cardiothoracic surgery, was doing cutting-edge surgical work. They had an excellent reputation and outstanding patient outcomes with new techniques involving structural heart work,” says Dr. Riebel.
“Dr. Riebel made me feel like we were facing this as a team. I was very impressed and grateful to him for making that connection with Dr. Mumtaz,” Ceirra says.
On February 16, 2021, Dr. Mumtaz performed Ceirra’s surgery in a procedure called intercostal surgical mitral valve repair (iSMVR).
“Due to our expertise at UPMC Harrisburg for mitral valve surgery, we could offer Ceirra the least invasive open-heart procedure, using a small incision on the right side of the chest to avoid cracking the sternum like traditional open-heart surgery,” Dr. Mumtaz says.
Without cutting any bone or cartilage, recovery is much quicker. Patients typically have less risk of needing a blood transfusion, less pain, and return more quickly to their life routine with the least amount of disruption.
“It is exciting so see more and more patients who are seeking this less invasive procedure and a robust mitral valve repair that can last them a long time,” Dr. Mumtaz adds.
Ceirra is quick to compliment UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute for providing incredible care.
“I feel like everyone treated me like I was their relative. I will recommend them the rest of my life,” she says.
UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute is an established leader in high quality cardiovascular care. Our specialists are available nearby to provide expert diagnosis and treatment of heart and vascular diseases and conditions. For more information and for a list of providers and services in the Central Pa. region, visit UPMC Heart and Vascular Care in Central Pa.
The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine. We strive to provide the most advanced, cutting-edge care for our patients, treating both common and complex conditions. We also offer services that seek to improve the health of our communities, including heart screenings, free clinics, and heart health education. Find an expert near you.