My Husband saved my life

3 min read

On August 17, 2011, I delivered a beautiful, healthy baby boy. Labor and delivery was short, easy, and I felt great. On Thursday night, August 18, while still in the hospital, my husband became concerned because I had mentioned a few times throughout the day that I was having trouble taking a deep breath. He asked the nurse to check me out before he left for the night and she heard something in my lungs. The on call Doctor thought I might have had a pulmonary embolism. Before we could get the results of the CT, I went into full flash pulmonary edema. I have no memory of most of the day, but I am told the event was severe and violent. I fought and had to be sedated 5 times before it took.

The Doctor on call told my husband he should call family. They didn't know what was happening, and they did not think I was going to make it. The most wonderful day of my husband's life had just turned into the worst day he could imagine. On Friday, the cardiologist who took over my case, a family friend, made the diagnoses of peripartum cardiomyopathy. My EF was barely 5%. They were discussing heart transplant or possibly pace maker. I woke up on Sunday very confused. I was on a ventilator, looking up at 2 doctors I know, with not a clue of what had happened.

I was let out of ICU on Monday. I had my 3rd Echo that showed I had improved to 15% EF. We were shaken, but optimistic. The doctors said we might be able to go home the next day, or the day after. That night, my nurse put me on a portable heart monitor , and took me down stairs to see my beautiful baby boy. It was the most wonderful 30 minutes you could imagine. Less than 2 hours later, I was watching my O2 level drop again, as nurses rushed around while I slipped away with a second round of flash pulmonary edema. It was the most terrifying 15 minutes I have ever experienced.

The next day, I woke to the same nurse I had 2 days earlier. "I need you to breath! Take a breath. I want to take you off the machine, but I need you to breath", she was saying. I couldn't believe this had happened again. I was taken off the vent, and stayed in ICU for 2 more days. I couldn't stand up by myself. I had that awful folie, and now I was very depressed and scared.

I was in the hospital for 12 days. I am amazed my wonderful husband didn't have a breakdown. My OB had ordered the hospital to keep the baby there until I went home. He told them I needed him there. The nurses were amazing. They brought him to see me any time they could. Some days it was only for a few minutes, but it was the best part of my day, and I was grateful for any amount of time. My cardiologist told me the more I do the better I will get, so I started walking the halls. The first few time it was just to the door 20 feet from my room, but by the time we left I was doing laps on my floor.

I did as much as I could when I got home. My husband moved all of the baby's thing downstairs to our room so I didn't have to go up. I walked. At first just one time around our cul-de-sac, then to the end of our street. I ran my first ever 5k on Dec 10. My echo at 7 weeks to the day after the event showed my heart had completely returned to normal, and I had an EF of 52%. I am the lucky one. I am completely fine. I still take a very low dose of Coreg and Vasotec, but I am strong and healthy. My Dr didn't miss anything. There was nothing to catch. It happened suddenly and violently, and was gone just as suddenly. This thing we have experienced has no rhyme or reason. No explanation of whom or why it strikes, and I know most are not as lucky as I am. I am grateful to my husband. If he had noticed my breathing, I would have simply gone to sleep and died.

I am not angry. What could I possibly be angry about? I have been motivated. I now teach prenatal and postnatal fitness. The fact that I worked out every day of my pregnancy, and I was in very good physical condition is probably why I survived. I want to help others do the same.

My Details

  • Date Diagnosed: 19/08/2011
  • Child: 3
  • Initial EF: 5%
  • Current EF: 60%+

Story By Jennifer Ayers-Millar

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