Savannah teen receives life-changing surgery for heart condition

Savannah teen receives life-changing surgery for heart condition

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - A Savannah teen is back to living a normal life, after years of living in fear.

“Looking back, it was pretty scary,” recalled Sophia Brooks.

Sophia’s parents, Michael and Frankie Brooks, said she was eight years old when a family Easter egg hunt turned into an ambulance ride to a local hospital.

Frankie remembered Sophia came up to her in the middle of the Easter egg hunt: “She said ‘Mom, my heart’s beating really fast.’”

Frankie said she thought her daughter was just excited.

While at the hospital, the Brooks family learned Sophia’s fast heart rate was a little more than just excitement.

It was a common heart rhythm problem found in children, called supraventricular tachycardia, or SVT, which triggers a racing heartbeat.

According to Sophia’s parents, their daughter would have SVT episodes out of the blue.

“I was just kind of nervous all the time,” said Sophia. “I had to turn down a lot of things because I was just scared to go out with people that aren’t close to me like family.”

Sophia and her family dealt with the episodes for four years, and trips to the ER became all too common.

However, a rare trip to Six Flags, where Sophia had an episode, was the moment her parents knew surgery was necessary.

“That was the one where we really said ‘Look, we got to do something about this. If she gets caught at a place where she’s not able to get treatment. It could turn into something bad,’” said Michael.

The procedure was costly, and it was hard to find a hospital that accepted the family’s medical insurance. Michael and Frankie didn’t give up.

“If you don’t find the answers you need the first time you see a physician, do what Sophia’s family did -- go knocking on all the doors. Don’t stop until you get the right treatment for your child,” said Dr. Sunita Ferns, a pediatric cardiac electrophysiologist.

The Brooks found the right treatment at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville, with Dr. Ferns.

“Dr. Ferns was a really good doctor,” said Sophia. “She was very encouraging too.”

As Sophia and her family prepared for a heart ablation procedure, Dr. Ferns’s encouragement and knowledge was exactly what they needed.

“She specializes in this. She’s had many cases where she’s had success stories,” said Michael. “I think it all happened the way it should have happened.”

According to Dr. Ferns, ablation was a permanent solution for Sophia’s heart condition.

“You go from having a child who visited the ER three or four times a year, needing IV medications, to six seconds of burning the right spot in the heart, completely eliminates that problem,” she said.

Sophia is now 13 years old, and it’s been almost six months after her surgery, and her parents have noticed a huge difference.

“I can tell she has a little more peace about her,” said Frankie.

“She is a lot less concerned,” Michael said.

Sophia lives a different life.

“I’ve been way more confident to go out and do things, not having the fear if my heart triggered, I’d have to go the hospital,” she said.

It was a long journey but the Brooks said their faith led the way.

Two months after her procedure, Sophia went in for a follow-up, where she and her parents learned she no longer has a heart condition.

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