Healthier Me: Atrial Septal Defects

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FARGO, N.D. (VALLEY NEWS LIVE) - The heart beats over 100,000 times per day, making it the strongest muscle in our body; but you could have a problem with your heart and not even know it.

It was no ordinary mother's day for Shellie Simonson-Ulven. The Fargo woman had gotten out of bed and noticed she had double vision. She thought it would go away but it didn't.

"We thought we better go to the walk in clinic and see. For them to tell me I had a stroke that was huge," said Shellie.
but it was more than just a stroke...

After countless hours and many tests, Shellie was diagnosed with Atrial Septal Defect or ASD. Shellie said she was surprised when doctors told her she had a hole in her heart, especially since she is a healthy and active woman.

"The Atrial Septal Defect are larger and most of the time the hole is larger in size and you get to have more symptoms," said Sanford Cardiologist Dr. Thaslim Kassim.

Some symptoms of ASD include shortness of breath, headaches and fatigue, symptoms Shellie didn't have.

"If it's a complex size or a larger hole or if it's in a very distant or unusual location, it's hard to close it so you have to do open heart surgery," said Dr. Kassim.

"When we decided to close it, i thought we would do it robotically, but when I met with the surgeon, she told me I had to go open heart surgery and that's when it took its toll"

Four months after her surgery, Shellie said she made the right choice.

"Knowing that I don't want to have heart disease in the future, it's not something I was interested in having at all," said Shellie.

While the scar on her chest reminds her of what happened, Shellie said she feels like she can do anything she wants.

"often there are days where I have to kind of reflect that I had open heart surgery because i feel really good, i feel great, i feel healthy," said Shellie.