Mooresville woman becomes youngest person to undergo rare heart operation

Kristiana Rigney was diagnosed with inappropriate sinus tachycardia when she was 17.
Kristiana Rigney is believed to be the youngest person in the U.S. to receive rare heart operation.
Published: May. 21, 2022 at 10:53 PM EDT
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MOORESVILLE, N.C. (WBTV) - A Mooresville woman is excited to get back to a normal life again after years of struggling with an irregular heartbeat.

She’s now being recognized as the youngest person in the United States to undergo a rare heart surgery.

As a teenager, Kristiana Rigney was healthy and active. But three years ago, it became difficult for her to even climb stairs.

“Dizzy, my heart was pounding very fast, couldn’t breathe,” Rigney said, referencing her condition.

Doctors diagnosed Rigney with ‘inappropriate sinus tachycardia,’ when she was 17.

“It’s basically your own pacemaker not functioning correctly,” Atrium Health cardiologist Sherry Saxonhouse said of the disease. “You’re sitting there and all of a sudden your heart rate’s 150 just sitting there. And you get up to do anything, it goes up to 200. So you have extreme exercise intolerance.”

Rigney’s diagnosis came after she underwent a third hip surgery.

“At some points you’re thinking, ‘is she going to have to live like this forever?’” Rigney’s mother, Jennifer said. “You could tell it was a frustration when you’re 20 and you can’t do what you want to do.”

The Rigney family dove into research and found a surgery that could fix Kristiana’s fast-beating heart.

“Knowing in the back of your mind, this has not been done a lot, is very scary,” Jennifer Rigney said.

On April 21, Kristiana underwent her operation at a medical facility in Kansas.

Doctors were able to successfully complete the surgery, and believe that Rigney is the youngest person in the United States to undergo the specific operation.

“I have a lot of plans,” Rigney said. “I’m like, I’ve gotta do everything while I can, and while I’m feeling healthy again so I’m very eager and excited to get back to life.”

Among the things she looks forward to getting back to are school, work and having a normal sleep schedule.

Related: Charlotte football coach, former UNCC player recovers after heart transplant

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