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Sisters Diagnosed with Congenital Heart Defect Face Surgery

  • Author: Dominique & Isabella Young
  • Date Submitted: Feb 16, 2018

“I’m so glad this is a situation I can get treatment here in Gillette and that I don’t have to travel out of state for cardiac rehab."

In late May, sisters 22-year-old Dominique, and 20-year-old Isabella Young will undergo heart surgery on back to back days in Denver. Both are suffering from an Atrial Septal Defect (ASD), which is a hole between the two upper chambers of the heart.

The journey to this point for the sisters has been an interesting path.

For those who don’t know, ASD presents in roughly one in every 1,000 births—but for these sisters the congenital heart defect runs in their family (a grandmother, two great aunts and two cousins). As children, both were taken to pediatricians for check-ups, and even though the doctor heard a heart murmur when checking Dominique, they felt that the siblings were healthy and that ASD posed no risk, so no further tests were ordered.

Yet, for most of Dominique’s life, she had some mild symptoms, but they were written off as activity induced asthma. It wasn’t until after Isabella’s newborn daughter had to undergo surgery to correct her ASD last year in Denver that thought about getting checked again crept into their minds. Then, Dominique had an allergic reaction that sent her to Campbell County Medical Group’s Walk-in Clinic in Gillette last August. After physician assistant Stefanie Hepp Garcia noted a heart murmur, Dominique requested a follow-up with a local cardiologist given the family history of ASDs.

Dr. Shah, Cardiologist in Gillette, WyomingDominique was referred to Dr. Sairav Shah, FACC, with Campbell County Medical Group Cardiology Clinic. Dr. Shah and Dr. Nicholas Stamato, FACC, are the first cardiologists to live and work in Gillette full-time and have been offering their services at CCH since 2014.

“Our main desire was to bring services to a community where there weren’t these services,” Dr. Shah said.

During Dominique’s appointment, Dr. Shah spent time going over her symptoms and ordered EKG and ECG tests for her, which found the ASD.

“The whole deal was pretty whirlwindish,” Dominique said. “Dr. Shah was very nice. He stayed late that night and called me that evening about scheduling an appointment with a specialist.”

Dominique was immediately scheduled to follow up with a pediatric cardiologist who comes to Gillette once a month. In addition, Dominique’s sisters—Isabella and 17-year-old Gabrielle—were also tested by Dr. Shah for an ASD. Isabella’s tests also showed the heart defect, so she was scheduled with the pediatric cardiologist as well. Ultimately, it was determined that the sisters would undergo surgery to correct the ASDs on back to back days in late May.

“I’m anxious,” Dominique said. “It’s difficult to hear the words ‘open heart surgery’ come out of your doctor’s mouth.”

Despite the anxiety about the looming surgery, they’re both thankful that Dr. Shah was able to get them a proper diagnosis and connected to a specialist who could help them avoid any long-term damage to their health. Left untreated, ASDs can increase the risk of stroke, shorten the life span and cause heart rhythm abnormalities.

And once their surgery is successfully complete, the sisters will return to Dr. Shah’s care for cardiac rehabilitation services and follow-up appointments.

“I’m so glad this is a situation I can get treatment here in Gillette and that I don’t have to travel out of state for cardiac rehab,” Dominique said.

That convenience of not having to go out of town for cardiac treatment and even emergencies, is a huge benefit to the community, Shah said. Prior to Shah and Stamato’s arrival, cardiac medical emergencies were sent to hospitals in the surrounding region. Those emergencies sometimes put loved ones on icy roads in the middle of the night or families having to worry about the expense of staying out of town for extended periods of time.

“Patients don’t have to travel long distances anymore,” Shah said. “We are a full-service cardiology practice. We can do pretty much everything except open heart surgery, but we follow up with all of our open heart patients here in Gillette so they don’t have to travel. We can follow them for life.”

Our highly skilled, board certified cardiologists at the Campbell County Medical Group Cardiology clinic are here at all times to care for patients and our cardiac cath lab allows us to provide care quickly during an emergency. And, we can help get you back to your daily routine after a heart incident with our Cardiac Rehabilitation program. Learn more about these services at

Article written by Kim Phagan-Hansel, Wyoming freelance writer