My Journey Through PPCM
My name is Christina and survivor of PPCM. Before I was pregnant with my baby girl I worked out five days a week doing cardio yoga and strength training on top of eating a healthy diet. So when we found out I was pregnant, my husband and I were excited about a baby! I had preeclampsia with my first child 7 years before so this time I was taking every step to try to prevent that from happening. My doctor didn't think I would have anything to worry about as I was now older. I exercised reguraly thoughout my pregnancy by walking every day and drinking plenty of water and healthy food. The pregnancy was uneventful and for the most part I felt great. Up until the time i was 8 and a half months pregnant. I noticed my legs starting to swell and having a major headache. I called my OB and he had me go in to the hospital for some testing (it was after hours) at that point my blood pressure was 135 I think. It was a Friday afternooon. After seeing the nurse and her relaying the information to the on call doctor I was sent home. I said okay but I knew it in me that preeclampsia was happening once again. Four days later my heachache was even worse radiating down my neck through my shoulders with no relief of tylenol. It was a Tuesday Oct. 25, 2011 I went to the doctor's office for my normal weekly checkup. The nurse took my blood pressure and it was up 176 (i do not remember my lower number.) That's when she left the room, got the doctor who was to see me (my doctor was out of town that week) He came in and told me I had preeclampsia and was going to be admitted into the hospital immediately to be induced in the morning. At that moment we walked out of the office and into the maternity floor of the hospital. The next morning I was induced to have my daughter October 26, 2011 due to preeclampsia. During labor I didnt feel too bad except I remember the doctor stating I had a mild abruption. From the moment I delivered my daughter everything was a blur. I was so tired I couldnt keep my eyes open my heachaches got worse and I started to experience blurry vision. They started administering blood pressure medication through my I.V. every couple of minutes to get my blood pressure down. They had a very difficult time with this so I was kept in labor and delivery until the next day then moved to recovery. I was not allowed phones, lights, or a lot of visitors because of the blood pressure. I didn't know what was happening to me at this point I just remember thinking this wasnt right. I kept asking questions about my symptoms and they reassured me everything was normal and it would take some time for the effects of preeclampsia to subside. This still didnt give me any peace because I felt nothing like this the first time I had preeclampsia during the pregnancy with my son. I was really scared and the only thing that gave me comfort was having my baby girl in my arms. I felt safe when she was in my arms. I knew I would be okay as long as I kept her. She pretty much stayed in my arms from that point on. The day they discharged me they took my blood pressure and it was in the 170s again. That is when they told me to lay on my left side they were going to show me a "trick" by laying on my left side my blood pressure immediatly read 145. I still didnt feel ready to go home because I felt so awful but I never had high blood pressure before or any health issues before this so I trusted what the doctors and nurses said about this being normal side effects of preeclampsia. After being home for a day and a half I started having a heavy chest and I couldnt stand straight. I could hardly walk without feeling major exhaustion and racing heart beat. I then started to get out of breath and couldnt take a deep enough breath. I started scooting on my bottom to get from my bed to the bathroom ten feet away and even that left me breathless. My lips started turning blue and I had to sleep sitting straight up. If I tried to lay down i coughed uncontrollably and couldnt breath at all. I just thought I was getting some virus and waited until the morning to go to the emergency room. I never imagined I would go into heart failure as none of us expected it.I was 27 years old.I never even heard of PPCM!October 31, 2011 my husband took me to another hospital where I was admitted into ICU for Peripartum Cardiomyopathy and Pneumonia. They said I was a very lucky girl… my blood pressure was up 189/120 (rough estimate here I can’t remember hardly anything really) my ejection fraction rate was 35%.Three months later it was 45%.I was pretty upset at that point because I was just wanted to be myself again and didn’t know if I would ever be me again and I wanted off these meds so bad. I was devastated that I wouldn’t be able to keep pumping and dumping.I was hoping to return to breastfeeding especially since I was told no more kids for me after having preeclampsia and heart failure.So it’s been nine months now… I just had another echo done and I was just praying and praying and trusting the Lord to give me a miracle of healing and if he did I would give him all the glory for it and share my story and raise awareness to all I could.Well he came through for me. My ejection fraction rate is 62-65% now! I used to ask God “why me?Why did this happen to me?I tried my best to be healthy and active throughout my pregnancy. “Like most of the women diagnosed with PPCM, I had no history of heart problems.But I see now that God saved me for a purpose… I am determined to use the bad for good in this experience and do all I can to raise awareness.Nobody I know has ever heard of PPCM.I never did… when you think about how many people are in this world 1 in 2000 seems like a lot of women to come down with PPCM to me.I’m writing my congressman about this, news stations, and getting involved in the American heart association and local groups to shed light on this.This is such a dangerous thing to go through and a costly one too.Pregnant women need to know what the signs and symptoms are that way when they feel something isn’t right they can know what to look for.I had no idea what was wrong but I knew I wasn’t right.I let them release me without a fight because I was told what I was feeling was a normal part of preeclampsia.It’s not right and now as a survivor I have a duty to help where I can.
Learn the signs. Know the symptoms. Save a life! Check out my story that recently aired on my local Fox 4 news in Kansas City MO. My cardiologist kindly interviewed for this segment and yes, this is the echo of MY actual heart.
UPDATE: I wrote my story after I first found out I made a full recovery. When I first found other survivors like me. Dealing with PPCM has been such a rollercoaster of emotions. From finding out I had this disease and trying to understand it to feeling depressed to angry, back to trying to understand and come to terms with it.
It's been a very emotional journey that I am still on but I will say even through everything I been through; PPCM is my blessing in disguise god took this awful thing and used it to change my heart spiritually. I have met amazing women all over the world and have a new appreciation for life and lives of others. I find myself to be a more giving person. I feel love, support, comfort, peace and strength. I don't think I could be this better person I have become if I didn't go through PPCM.
I certainly could never be brave enough to talk about my story without the encouragement and stories from my fellow heart sisters. I am so thankful for each and every one of them and for thesisters we have lost to PPCM I will continue to spend my life fighting for us and getting the word out about PPCM. I LOVE YOU GIRLS! You will forever be a part of me.