Nashville cardiologist performs new procedure to fix hole in hea - WSMV News 4

Nashville cardiologist performs new procedure to fix hole in heart

Posted: Updated: Aug 04, 2015 03:16 PM

Being born with a hole in your heart is one of the most common congenital defects. If left untreated, it can lead to heart failure and early death.

A new procedure is repairing that heart defect with minimal recovery time. Only a few specialists in the country can perform it and one of them is on staff at St. Thomas Health in Nashville.

While some may call the surgery a medical miracle, one family in Honduras believes they received one from some generous hearts in middle Tennessee.

Cesia Toledo, 21, was born with a hole in her heart. She's felt short of breath for as long as she can remember.

As she got older, the athlete who once loved to run felt tired all the time.

"The doctor said it can cause some depression," Toledo said. "It was really hard for me, but I had to pretend I was like normal."

Doctors in Honduras said Toledo was too old for surgery.

"I felt God was punishing me," she said.

Recently, a group of men from a Franklin church were wrapping up their annual mission trip to Toledo's town when they asked leaders what they needed next.

"Anything else we could do?" said Steve Meek, a Franklin resident. "'Antonio's daughter has a hole in her heart. Any chance you can get it fixed?' I've been there a dozen times and nobody ever asked us to do that before."

Meek started making calls. Dr. Mark Stankewicz at Nashville's St. Thomas Hospital answered.

"We were very lucky and blessed," Stankewicz said. "Want to give back."

The Nashville cardiologist is one of a select few in the country who can perform the procedure that's revolutionized heart repair. What once required opening the chest, an extensive hospital stay and arduous recovery can now be done through a small incision near the groin.

"We go through a tube, through that vein, go up with a wire through the hole and slide a device that closes it without having to open the chest," Stankewicz said.

The St. Thomas Health Foundation paid to fly Toledo and her mother to Tennessee for surgery. Stankewicz and staff donated their time and expertise.

Meek's family had the mother and daughter stay in their Franklin home.

One week after surgery, Toledo was back at St. Thomas for a check-up. She was cleared to return home.

"I feel like running," she said.

Toledo said she now believes God had a different plan all along.

"He wasn't punishing me. He wanted me to be healthy, meet new people, new friends and discover this whole new world," she said.

The St. Thomas Health Foundation covered the cost of everything, including six months of medication after the procedure.

To learn more about the foundation and the procedure, click here.

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