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S.C. Lee student makes history with untested heart surgery


Posted Date: 07/25/2019

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COPPERAS COVE, TX (July 25, 2019)—Thirteen year-old Angelica was two years old when she got stung by a bee at a softball game. An allergic reaction landed her in the emergency room where doctor’s discovered that she had a heart disorder, Supra Ventricular Tachycardia, an abnormal heart rate that can cause weakening of the heart muscles, a stroke due to clotting of the blood, and/or a heart attack due to the pressure that is put on Torres’ heart. The heart abnormality is very rare in children.                   

The doctor at McLane’s Children’s Medical Center assigned to Torres had only seen two cases like Torres’ in his career and they were children ages 15 and 17. SVT is caused when there is an electrical misfire in the bottom of the heart chambers, and heart rates can go as high as 350.

After a year of testing and various medications, doctors prescribed a new medication called Propanoll that Torres has taken for more than 10 years now. She is on a higher dosage than most adults.

“My parents have tried very hard to keep life normal for me so I could be a kid. This has helped me adjust to my situation very well,” Torres said.   

By age four, Torres’ episodes of her heart rate getting too high became more frequent and the episodes were lasting an abnormally long time. Doctors recommended Torres’ receive an ablation, a heart catheterization surgery. Doctors inserted a needle through Torres’ groin area and into her heart, burning some of the tissue causing her heart’s electrical abnormalities.

“I recovered extremely well for the first 10 days with no complications,” Torres said. “But on the eleventh day, I had two episodes that spent my body to the point of exhaustion. That is when my parents learned that the surgery was not successful.”

Torres was put back on medication and an EEG monitor for 60 days. Having very few episodes on the new medicine, Torres was allowed to play softball by the age of 8 and until she collapsed on the field. Her heart rate was up to 290. Doctors advised that Torres could not be in the heat for an extended period of time and she was forced to quit playing softball.

The extensive episodes continued. Doctors decided to do another ablation, adding a new procedure where doctors stopped Torres’ heart for two to three minutes to see if the number of episodes would reduce. Once again, the surgery was not successful.   

“My episodes started getting worse in the beginning of March 2018, and it seemed that with my episodes came compressed headaches due to my heart rate reaching severely high levels,” Torres said. “The doctors suggested having third ablation that may again not be successful or having a loop heart monitor embedded into my chest which would make me the first child in the United States to have that procedure done.”

In December 2018, Torres underwent the untested surgery, having a loop heart monitor the size of a computer thumb drive embedded into her chest despite her heart stopping during the surgery and going into atrial fibrillation. The heart loop monitor now records all of Torres’ heart rhythm. She wear another medical device around her neck and pushes a button whenever her heart rate becomes too high.

“I get asked if I ever miss out in life because of my heart condition. My response is ‘No.’ Can I ride a scary roller coaster or go through a scary haunted house? No, because the high adrenaline levels can make my heart rate go too high,” Torres said. “But, I do play volleyball, do power lifting, and compete in track with the understanding that I know my limits and know my body since my heart rate sits at 144 beats per minute.”

Torres was crowned Young Miss Five Hills in March, her third attempt to capture the crown. She has dedicated her year of service to drawing awareness to heart health.

“I have decided to bring awareness to the community with the Go Red for Women Campaign since heart disease kills more women than all forms of cancers combined,” Torres said. “On February 22, in partnership with Keep Copperas Cove Beautiful, I will be hosting a fashion show of models wearing red attire made entirely out of recycled materials.”

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Contact Information

Copperas Cove Independent School District
408 S. Main Street
COPPERAS COVE, Texas 76522
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Phone: 254-547-1227