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The Heart of an Athlete

Mikala Weston was 9 years old when her new pediatrician, Dr. Barbara Kahler, detected a heart murmur during a routine physical. Dr. Kahler referred Mikala to William Moskowitz, MD, Chair of the Division of Pediatric Cardiology at Pauley Heart Center.

"Mikala had never had any noticeable symptoms of a heart problem and, until then, no one had noticed that she had a heart murmur. And I had talked to people before who had heart murmurs and they didn't make them sound that serious, so we weren't terrible concerned," said Mikala's mother, Sheila Weston. "But of course we made an appointment right away with Dr. Moskowitz, and I am very glad we did."

An ultrasound of Mikala's heart revealed a moderately large (16 mm) atrial septal defect (ASD).

"Dr. Moskowitz explained that Mikala had a hole in the septum—that is the wall that separates the heart's left and right sides—and that it needed to be fixed. He was very caring and reassuring, and as you can see, everything worked out just fine."

Things did indeed work out fine. Using a minimally invasive transcatheter technique, Dr. Moskowitz placed and secured an ASD device over the defect. Mikala was able to go home the next day and resume her normal activities within a few months.

"It seems like before the surgery I got tired a little quicker than the other kids," said Mikala. "But after the surgery I had more energy, could keep up with the others. That is when I got really interested in athletics." Mikala's involvement with athletics has included both indoor and outdoor track and field, as well as girl's field hockey. As a junior at Highland Springs High School she was voted team captain of the field hockey team, and was named to the First Team, All District, and Honorable Mention, All Region/All Academic.

She graduated high school in June with a 4.45 GPS and is headed to the University of Virginia to study biomedical engineering on a full ride of scholarships.

"We are so grateful to Dr. Moskowitz. From the first time we saw him and at every follow-up visit he has been the same. He is always kind, explains things so that you can understand them, and is genuinely interested in what Mikala is doing, how things are going in school, what her plans are. He is one of the nicest, most caring doctors that I have ever met. Because of his good care, Mikala has had a childhood that she might not have had, and has an exciting future ahead of her."