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Central Texas Spotlight: Copperas Cove middle schooler becomes first in the nation to undergo new heart surgery

Angelica Torres, 13, underwent an untested surgery to correct a heart condition she's been battling since she was two years old.

COPPERAS COVE, Texas — A Copperas Cove teen made medical history in December when she became the first person ever to undergo a new heart surgery method. 

Angelica Torres, 13, is S.C. Lee Junior High School student who has battled supra ventricular tachycardia for almost her entire life. 

SVT is caused by an electrical misfire in the bottom of the heart chambers. It leads to abnormal heart rates as high as 350 beats per minute. The pressure the condition puts on the heart can cause heart muscles to weaken, strokes from blood clots and heart attacks. 

Torres was only two years old when she was taken to the emergency room to treat an allergic reaction to a bee sting. There, doctors discovered the heart condition.

The disorder is extremely uncommon among children. The doctor assigned to Torres at McLane Children's Medical Center said he had only seen two cases like hers in his career: A 15-year-old and a 17-year-old with the same condition.

Torres spent the year after her diagnosis going through testing and was prescribed Propanoll, which she has been for the last 10 years. The teenager is on a higher dosage of the drug than most adults.

The girl's extremely high heart rate episodes became more frequent and longer-lasting by age four, and doctors recommended she receive an ablation. 

During the heart catheterization procedure, doctors burned some of the tissue causing the electrical abnormalities, but Torres said the procedure was ultimately unsuccessful.

“I recovered extremely well for the first 10 days with no complications,” Torres said. “But on the 11th 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.”

When she was eight, Torres was experiencing fewer episodes and was allowed to play softball until she collapsed on the field with a heart rate of 290 bpm. She was forced to quit softball when doctors told her she could not spend extended periods of time in the heat.

Torres underwent another ablation and added a new procedure where doctors stopped her heart for two to three minutes to try to reduce the frequency of her episodes. That procedure was also unsuccessful.

Last year, the condition worsened, and doctors suggested the untested surgery.

“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,” Torres said.

In December, Torres had a loop heart monitor embedded into her chest during the historic surgery. 

Credit: KCEN

The heart loop constantly records Torres' heart rhythm. She has a medical device around her neck with a button she presses whenever her heart rate becomes too high to monitor the frequency and extent of her episodes. 

Now, her heart rates sits around 144 bpm. 

“I get asked if I ever miss out in life because of my heart condition. My response is ‘No,’" Torres said. "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. But, I do play volleyball, do power lifting, and compete in track with the understanding that I know my limits."

Torres was also crowned Young Miss Five Hills in March and is dedicating her year of service to raising awareness for 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.


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