03/10/2012 13:05 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Infection From Earrings Or Braces May Have Caused Teenager's Heart Failure

Teenager suffers heart failure caused by earrings or braces

A teenager who thought she had indigestion was actually days from death due to heart failure, which could have been caused by her ear piercings or braces.

Jess Smith, 17, from Cornwall, was 16 when she first suffered chest pain. She was diagnosed with indigestion by her GP and given Gaviscon. However, a scan by a second doctor showed she was suffering from a serious heart infection called Endocarditis.

Endocarditis is caused by bacteria entering the bloodstream, and can occur during procedures such as having injections, ear piercings and dental work, like brace fittings.

Doctors say Jess's condition could have been picked up when she had her ears pierced or brace fitted when she was 15.

Schoolgirl suffers heart failure caused by earrings or braces SWNS

The teenager was rushed to open-heart surgery, and surgeons spent seven hours replacing her heart valves. Jess then suffered a heart attack just 24 hours after her surgery, and was in intensive care for three weeks.

She is currently on the waiting list for a new heart.

"They said it could have been from getting an infection when I had my ears pierced, or even an infection from when I had a brace," says the brave teenager.

"But they don't know for sure. We will never know. I couldn't believe it when they said it was my heart. They said if I hadn't gone back to the doctors when I could have died in just a few days.

"You expect your older relatives to suffer from heart attacks, not people my age."

Jess, who had dreams of being a professional dancer, has been left with a six inch scar on her chest, and has had a defibrillator fitted in her heart while she waits for a transplant. She is now at college where she is training to be a hairdresser.