Closing Heart Holes

FRESNO, Calif.

Many live healthy lives, symptom-free, but for others, the hole can lead to heart disease or even cause a stroke.

Now, there is a new technique that's healing hearts, without major surgery.

Triston Marez is in the zone.

"The adrenaline when you're doing your routine, it's awesome," Marez told Ivanhoe.

He's got a shot at the 2016 Olympic Team.

"Will, it's been my dream ever since I was a little baby," Marez said.

That dream nearly crashed due to Atrial Septal Defect. Marez was born with holes in his heart.

"If I was working out at the gym, my heart would beat really fast, and I would get really pale," Marez recalled.

"In a week's time, he would have three to four times of headache and dizziness," Mohammed Numan, M.D., pediatric cardiologist at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, TX, said.

Those holes were between his heart's atria, allowing blood from both sides to mix, which can be devastating.

Dr. Numan put in a device that acts as a permanent umbrella over the holes. It's fed through a catheter. Then, two thumbnail sized discs clamp and close the heart holes. Over time, Marez's own tissue will cover the device.

"His symptoms improved dramatically," Dr. Numan added.

Marez's recovery took six hours. He was back at the gym in two weeks. The previous method would have meant open heart surgery, a week in recovery, and no more gymnastics.

"His attitude and his heart and his desire to do this sport at a high level, it's going to get him to where he needs to be," Sean Townsend, former Olympian, explained.

Former Olympian Sean Townsend is now Marez's coach, watching this young man reach for the gold.

"I don't know what I would do. There's nothing else that I love besides gymnastics," Marez said.

Now, Marez has another shot at a perfect 10.

Symptoms of Atrial Septal Defect include heart palpitations, bluish skin color, and lung infections. They are the most common congenital defect in adults and are more common among women than men.

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