It was like an episode of “House M.D.” Eight years ago I lay in an ICU bed not knowing if I would ever see the next day let alone have a chance to be a Mommy to my than 2 month old little boy.
I presented with a normal pregnancy, no known complications, as far as we knew at the time. The only oddity, that my OB thought was normal was my weight gain. Keep in mind that normally, I am a pretty small person (low weight and small framed) – on my delivery date I was a whopping 164 lbs. Wow, you say!! Huge – yes!! And my little one weighed in at 9 lbs 12 oz. Ten fingers, ten toes – healthy baby boy.
A fairly non complicated birth as well. He was a week over due, just didn’t want to leave his little water world. I labored for 18 hours and had to have a C-Section for obvious reasons. Even that went well.
Over the next month, I began to present with pneumonia like symptoms. Heavy chest feeling, hard to breath, coughing up mucus, and extreme bloating – so much I looked like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
Three times to the ER. Each time they sent me home. Did not find anything. On my son’s 2 month check-up the doc asked how I was doing. I told him about the ER visits and about my extreme puffiness, which my OB had chalked up to the epidural and pitocin.
He immediately did an EKG and echo-cardio and admitted me to the hospital. I was told I barely had an ejection fraction, my lungs had filled with fluid, and heart was grossly enlarged. I was the walking dead.
There I spent the next three months on the cardiac wing, in and out of ICU -twice for TIA’s. (a mini stroke). It took the doctors over a month to finally come up with a firm diagnosis for me – Postpartum (Peripartum) Cardiomyopathy (PPCM).
I was told immediately to tie my tubes and to not have anymore children. Now what doctor tells a 29-year-old, first time mom, with a 2 month old this. I got several second opinions and switched cardiologists.
For the next 8 months, I took a very regimented cocktail of heart medications, had blood draws every other week, and saw my cardiologist twice a month. That following December, I was told by my cardiologist that my EF was presenting within normal range and I was able to wean off some of my medications.
I was in the clear. I had survived this, though it was no small feat!!! I feel strongly that my quick recovery had to do greatly with the fact that I have a wonderful, strong support system. My parents were with me every step of the way. They sat by my bedside, prayed for me, and helped care for my little one.
I slowly began the process of weaning off the rest of my medications. In 2011, I was almost off all of my medications; my EF remained in normal range.
In 2012 I got the approval to go off all medications, though I remain on baby aspirin. My latest echocardiogram came back beautiful (2014).
It has been eight years since this horrific incident. Medicine has changed and has moved with the times. PPCM is no longer the mysterious pregnancy disease that women can get. It is still a very, very rare disease to get, however; it is more easily detected and doctors are more aware of it.
I do have the best cardiac and ob team in my area and I have even been given the cautious green light to future children because I made such a quick and fantastic recovery. There is always a chance of recurrence, however; I would be very closely monitored with my team. With today’s medical technology, there is always a hope and a future!!