When 22-year-old Samantha Blankenship first began feeling unexplained pain in her fingers and toes last May, she had no idea it was the result of an uncommon and potentially fatal heart infection. “I’m a healthy person,” says Samantha. “I go to the gym, I go hiking, I eat good food.”
So when she started having joint pain and swelling that would wake her up in the middle of the night, she wasn’t sure what was wrong. At first, she thought it might be rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or possibly Lyme disease. It wasn’t until she was asked about chest pain during a visit to the emergency room at Spring Valley Hospital that the pieces started to come together.
“The night before, I’d woken up with chest pain,” she recalls. “I’d never had anything like that before.” Samantha was diagnosed with endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart chambers and valves. Doctors discovered a growth on her mitral valve, which caused her blood to flow back to her heart instead of out to her body. “That was a lot to take in,” Samantha says. On May 31, 2016, cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon Nauman Jahangir, MD, performed a mini mitral valve replacement on Samantha.
Minimally invasive valve surgery is an area of special interest at Spring Valley Hospital and is provided for appropriate patients. “It offers a more cosmetic result as well as a quicker return to normal life activities,” Dr. Jahangir says. The procedure performed on Samantha entailed removing the damaged valve and replacing it with a new biological valve. “I chose to have a pig’s valve because I didn’t want to take Coumadin ® (a blood thinning medication), which has an impact on getting pregnant,” Samantha says. Today, Samantha’s heart is beating strong, and she is grateful for the care she received from Dr. Jahangir.
“He’s very confident, and he did a great job in surgery,” Samantha says. “He put my parents at ease. They saw his confidence, and they felt comfortable with him.” Samantha Blankenship is now back in good health after advanced heart treatment at Spring Valley Hospital.