• By Dana Sparks

Sharing Mayo Clinic: Heart surgery re-energizes gymnast

February 3, 2019

Sharing Mayo Clinic patient Dannika Mechtel smiling and standing outside with a blue sky behind herWhen she was diagnosed with a rare heart condition known as Ebstein anomaly, Dannika Mechtel came to Mayo Clinic for care. Surgery not only repaired her heart, it restored her vitality, so she can keep competing in the sport she loves.  

Those closest to her were the first to spot a change in Dannika Mechtel. But it wasn't until the young gymnast's balance beam scores began to drop that she started to see what others had been noticing. The high level of competitive energy Dannika typically displayed throughout her gymnastics meets was beginning to wane.

After a visit with her local physician, Dannika learned the surprising reason for her dwindling energy. She'd been born with Ebstein anomaly, and the rare congenital heart defect was beginning to take its toll.

The condition was robbing Dannika's tricuspid valve — the valve between her heart's right atrium and right ventricle — of its ability to function properly. Blood had begun to leak back through the abnormally formed valve. That forced Dannika's heart to work harder to pump blood, and it triggered the uncharacteristic fatigue that was creeping into her gymnastic performances.

After discussing the diagnosis, Dannika's physician explained that Dannika would need corrective surgery once the symptoms of the heart defect progressed to the point that they significantly disrupted her quality of life. Read the rest of Dannika's story.
This article originally appeared on the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog.