One of the lucky ones...
After reading stories from other PPCM patients, I realize that I am one of the lucky ones...
My due date was March 5, 2012. On March 19th, I waddled into the maternity unit for an induction at 2:30 in the afternoon. Other than being two weeks over due, I had a great pregnancy. I was swollen and tired, but I was feeling pretty good.
My son was born at 4:21 - a little under two hours after I checked into the hospital - emergency c-section. His vitals were great the morning of the 19th, but once we got to the hospital, he wrapped his chord. I didn't know this at the time, but my baby likely saved my life before he was even born.
The events that lead up to the emergency c-section were terrifying. After a "routine" ultrasound, we were rushed to an OR and within minutes I was having a baby. Although the actual birth didn't go as we planned, the surgery went well and my baby was healthy and strong.
On March 20th, the day after the birth of my son, I felt there was something wrong. I had trouble breathing at first. This lead to moderate shortness of breath throughout the day. There was also a heaviness in my chest that the nurses thought was new mom anxiety. Late in the day, after my family went home, I developed a wet cough. The shortness of breath got worse. I had to hand the baby over to my husband.
Events that followed are fuzzy at best. I was wheeled to get a MRI to rule out a blood clot. Things felt very chaotic. I had an oxygen mask, but couldn't stop coughing and couldn't breathe. Keep in mind the incision from the c-section, every time I coughed I was in horrendous pain. My blood pressure spiked, my heart rate was out of control. All I wanted to do was close my eyes and rest, I was so tired. My husband was begging me to open my eyes, to stay with him.
Once the blood clot was ruled out, the cardiologist diagnosed me with PPCM and I was transferred to the ICU. The days that followed were purely petrifying. I had a heart failure coordinator visit me. A slew of doctors. The hospital chaplain - this is when I really knew I was in trouble. My family and a few friends. Still fuzzy from the pain medications from the surgery, I couldn't comprehend what was happening, but the look in everyone's eyes was a good indicator in how much trouble I was in.
I was 35, and they were talking to me about prolonging my life until I was 40. I would not be able to breastfeed my son any longer. I was strongly advised not to have any subsequent pregnancies. I had congestive heart failure. Worst of all, I was separated from my baby for days - he couldn't come to ICU, but once I got to a step down floor, I could travel with a life box and see him for a few minutes. It was heart wrenching to leave him every time.
I was devastated and scared. But I had a goal to get back to my baby. I was determined. Although I had moments of tears and distress, I had to do what ever I could to get back to my baby. I had to stay calm. I had to believe that I was going to leave that hospital alive and I had to believe I would get better. With the help from my fabulous ICU nurses, talented cardio docs, and beyond compassionate OB, I got out of the hospital on March 24th, my brother's birthday. My husband, baby and I went home.
With a cocktail of medications and a lot of help from family, I got better. I weaned off half my meds six months after I left the hospital. Six months after that, I weaned off the rest of the meds. A year and a half after the diagnosis of PPCM, my ejection fraction is back to normal, I am medication free, and most importantly enjoying my son and family.
I was one of the lucky PPCM patients. The emergency c-section likely saved my life, true labor could have been devastatingly harsh on my body. Given the rareness of PPCM, the likelihood of a cardio doc that had seen cases of this prior to me was uncanny. Not only did I make it, I got better.