Vanessa’s Story

Giant Cell Myocarditis Symptoms Mistaken for a Septic Gall Bladder

Vanessa Made a Miraculous Recovery and Lives with Her Own Heart

Vanessa Made a Miraculous Recovery and Lives with Her Own Heart
Vanessa Hickey

As told by Vanessas family

Vanessa noticed a rash on her chest April 1st 2011. Although she had been training for a seven mile run, she was experiencing occasional fatigue and upset stomach. The rash kept getting worse and she was also noticing shortness of breath with exercise and went to the doctor three times over the next few weeks.

After celebrating her 40th birthday with friends, she woke up throwing up from what we assumed was a stomach bug. She was also having a little lightheadedness and slight chest pains, so we took her to a medical clinic.

After a chest X-ray, an EKG, and two bags of fluids, they still thought it was a nasty stomach bug and sent her home to rest.

The symptoms continued to worsen so she went to our family doctor two days later. The doctor couldnt get a pulse, so he sent her down to the ER. As they were preparing to remove what they thought was an infected gall bladder, her blood pressure dropped at an alarming rate.

They put the surgery on hold while starting aggressive antibiotics to treat what they thought was a septic gall bladder. After checking her blood work, they believed she had a heart attack and then did an angioplasty to look for blockage. There was no blockage so they did an Echo to find her heart was only functioning at 12%.

She was transferred to UTSW and thanks to the knowledge of their heart failure team, they performed a risky heart biopsy and diagnosed her with a very rare auto-immune disease called giant cell myocarditis.

She was put on the heart transplant list, but her body began to react very positively to the treatment thanks to Dr. Leslie Coopers research on the disease. After three weeks in the Cardiovascular ICU, we are happy to say Vanessa has made a miraculous recovery and is at home with her own heart, which is now functioning normal with little or no scar tissue.