A CAMBORNE schoolgirl who thought she had indigestion suffered heart failure aged 16 - caused by her earring or braces.
When trainee hairdresser Jess Smith began suffering mild chest pains she assumed it was a common case of heartburn.
She saw one GP who diagnosed indigestion and gave her Gaviscon but the symptoms continued she was told by another doctor that she was in fact suffering heart failure - and was rushed to hospital to have open-heart surgery.
But just 24 hours after the surgery, the brave teenager, now aged 17, had a heart attack - and was in intensive care for three weeks.
Doctors have now told her the infection could have been picked up when she had her ears pierced or brace fitted when she was 15.
She has been told she needs a new heart and is currently on the transplant waiting list.
She said: "At first I thought it was indigestion so I went to the doctors and was given Gaviscon.
''But when it didn't get any better I went back, thinking it was a chest infection. I couldn't believe it when they said it was my heart.
''They said if I hadn't gone back to the doctors I could have died in just a few days.
"You expect your older relatives to suffer from heart attacks, not people my age."
Jess was diagnosed with endocarditis which left untreated can result in death and normally only affects people aged over 50.
The condition is caused when bacteria enters the bloodstream which can occur during procedures such as having injections, ear piercings and dental work like brace fittings.
Jess, who had dreams of being a professional dancer, has been left with a six-inch scar on her chest - but she isn't afraid of people seeing it.
She continued: "I don't purposely have it on show but I don't feel I have to cover it up because I'm proud that I went through this and pulled through.
"My dream of becoming a dancer is out of reach now," said Jess, who gets tired from walking up the stairs.
"I know it's too dangerous for me to pursue so I'm studying hairdressing instead."