Did having her ears pierced make this schoolgirl's heart stop Teen's coronary may have been caused by her earrings
Teenager told she was days from death due to heart infection, and had to undergo risky open-heart surgeryShe suffered a heart attack a day after the operation and needed another ten weeks in hospitalDoctors said her infection could have been caused by having ears pierced… but they would never know for sure
Jessica has had to give up dreams of becoming a professional dancer. She is on the transplant waiting list

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UPDATED:

23:08 GMT, 3 October 2012

When 16-year-old Jess Smith visited her GP about the pains in her chest, she was told they were nothing more than a spot of indigestion.

Within days, she was undergoing seven hours of emergency open-heart surgery.

The teenager, who had previously been considered perfectly healthy, suffered heart failure from an infection which she may have picked up when she had her ears pierced a year earlier.

Jessica Smith from Camborne, Cornwall, while she was in intensive care

Jessica had open-heart surgery after she started suffering from chest pains

Jessica Smith from Camborne, Cornwall, spent ten weeks in hospital following a heart attack – a day after she had open-heart surgery. Pictures show Jessica recovering from surgery, left, and as she is now

She had a heart attack and was in
intensive care for three weeks after being struck by a rare condition
which usually affects people more than three times her age.

Jess, then a keen dancer and gymnast, visited her GP in September last year.

She was told her chest pains were probably caused by indigestion and to take the heartburn remedy Gaviscon.

When
she did not feel any better and returned a week later, a second doctor
realised she was suffering from heart failure and could be dead within
days.

She was diagnosed
with endocarditis – a rare infection of the heart – and was admitted to
hospital for open-heart surgery, during which doctors replaced her
heart valves.

Recovery: Jessica in intensive care. She has had a defibrillator fitted in her heart

Recovery: Jessica in intensive care. She has had a defibrillator fitted in her heart

Survivor: Jessica Smith is now waiting for a heart transplant

Survivor: Jessica Smith is now waiting for a heart transplant having gone through surgery

Just 24 hours after her operation she suffered a heart attack and then spent a total of seven weeks in hospital.

The trainee hairdresser from Camborne, Cornwall, now 17, is on a heart transplant waiting list.

She
said: ‘At first I thought it was indigestion. I went back [to the
doctors], thinking it was a chest infection. I couldn’t believe it when
they said it was my heart.

‘You expect your older relatives to suffer from heart attacks, not people my age.’

Endocarditis - the killer bug

Endocarditis
normally only affects people over 50. It is caused by bacteria which
can enter the blood during procedures such as injections, piercings or
brace fittings.

A week after the incorrect diagnosis by the first GP, Jess’s mother Dawn encouraged her to seek a second opinion.

Jess was sent to Bristol Royal
Infirmary for emergency surgery and her family were told to prepare for
the worst. Mrs Smith, 51, a teaching assistant, said: ‘I was stunned. We
didn’t realise how serious it was.’

Jessica pictured with younger brother Michael while she was in hospital. Doctors said she could have received the infection when she had her ears pierced

Jessica pictured with younger brother Michael while while she was in hospital. Doctors said she could have received the infection when she had her ears pierced

Doctors told Jess, who has been left
with a six-inch scar and has been fitted with a defibrillator, that her
endocarditis could have been caused by an infection which travelled to
her heart.

‘It could have been from when I had my
ears pierced or when I had a brace. They don’t know for sure. We will
never know,’ she said.

‘They said if I hadn’t gone back to the doctor when I did I could have died in just a few days.’

She
said she is not self-conscious about her scar, adding: ‘I don’t
purposely have it on show, but I don’t feel I have to cover it up
because I’m proud I went through this and pulled through.’

Happy to still have her around: Jessica and Michael as they are today. Jessica sports a six-inch scar on her chest after her open-heart surgery

Happy to still have her around: Jessica and Michael as they are today. Jessica sports a six-inch scar on her chest after her open-heart surgery