Northeast Ohio mom discovers heart failure in her 30s was result of common childhood illness

Updated: Feb. 26, 2021 at 11:59 AM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) -“I just couldn’t breathe in the middle of the night. I had passed out,” said Katrina Cox.

This mother was diagnosed with chronic heart failure, congestive heart failure and COPD all at once, at just 38 years old.

“It was doing damage to my heart and I didn’t know it,” she said.

Her condition was caused by untreated sickness as an adolescent.

“It came from having rheumatic fever, which is caused from having strep throat a lot. I used to have strep throat a lot when I was younger,” said Cox.

This is Katrina. Like many of us, she had strep throat a lot as a kid. But this, in part, lead to her heart failure...

Posted by Jen Picciano on Friday, February 26, 2021

“She came in with symptom of a valve disease that we call heart failure. It pretty much means that that valve is doing so poorly that fluid is backing up into her lungs,” said Dr. James Cireddu, Medical Director of University Hospitals Harrington Heart and Vascular Institute at Bedford Medical Center.

Katrina had to first tackle some significant weight loss through gastric bypass surgery to best prepare her body for pending heart surgery. She lost about 100 pounds.

Dr. Cireddu says they were able to get Katrina several more good years with medical management, but eventually the valve was deteriorating.

“In her case the valve was so badly damaged from rheumatic disease that really the only good option was to replace the whole valve,” said Dr. Cireddu.

“I feel like, I’m so young. What did I do to deserve all of this. There’s got to be some happy ending at the end,” said Cox.

Her happy ending came after open heart surgery last July. She got a mechanical heart valve. But to Katrina is was a “magic heart valve”

“It absolutely was a magic trick, especially how I feel right now. Right now, compared to back then I feel 100 percent better,” she said.

She’s not out of the woods yet. She has to stay committed to her health and continued weight loss to best take care of her magic heart.

“It’s made a very big difference in her life. She said how much it’s improved exercise capacity doing things with her family and the kids 959 definitely worth it,” Dr. Cireddu said.

He hopes her valve will last her the rest of her life.

Copyright 2021 WOIO. All rights reserved.