The Heart of a Young Mother

10 min read

I wasn’t ready to be a mother when I got pregnant. I had been throwing up like crazy- seriously, the toilet and I had become best friends after I was hugging it all day every day. I decided to take a pregnancy test just to see if I could be. When I saw those two very solid neon pink lines parallel to one another, I cried because I knew my life wouldn’t be the same any longer and I was afraid. There was, too, that I didn’t particularly want to give up certain things. For me to be a good mother, there would be no more partying or drinking alcohol and I would even have to change my crummy diet of pizza, junk food, soda and beer. I was heading down the wrong path, and I will be the first one to admit it. Luckily for me, I was and am very much so in love with my baby’s father. With his encouragement, I was able to quit everything that could negatively affect the baby growing in my belly. After a few weeks, I became so excited at the thought of being a mom! I remained scared and anxious throughout the entire pregnancy, but really, what first time mom (and even second, third, fourth, etc) doesn’t?

Before I started to tell anyone that I was pregnant, I took four more tests to be absolutely positive (no pun intended) until I could see my OB. I know, four is a little excessive, but hey, I wanted to KNOW! And sure enough he confirmed- I was pregnant. 10 weeks. Willie and I began by telling our closest friends about the pregnancy. I was terrified of telling my family. I didn’t want to experience my parents being angry with me or disappointed in me since Willie and I weren’t married. In retrospect, I wish I had told them before the 16th week because everything turned out wonderfully. My family had nothing but encouraging words and love to give Willie and I. We decided to get married in February 2013 and it was the best choice either one of us had ever made up to this point in our lives. I was 21 weeks pregnant when we got married and had quit having morning sickness at around 17 weeks. Up til then, my only symptoms were an obviously growing stomach, morning sickness (psh, all day and night sickness) and occasional lightheadedness. Other than that, all was well and baby was growing like she was supposed to!          Many people who saw me during my pregnancy and kept up with my pictures of weekly progress through my Facebook and Instagram posts believed that I was one of those pregnant women who “glowed” and probably thought my pregnancy was easy, but that was definitely not the case. My pregnancy (more so after I got married) was difficult. I pretty much deemed myself useless. I couldn’t sleep. I was always getting lightheaded. I was in pain. Many pregnancy symptoms were incredibly heightened. Every time I went to see my OB, my heart rate was high, but I suppose he didn’t think it was of any concern. But neither did I or anyone else. Don’t get me wrong…. I loved being pregnant (certain aspects of it), but it was no easy task.          It was probably the last month of my pregnancy that I began to swell, and boy, do I mean SWELL and gain weight much quicker. I weighed 98 pounds pre-pregnancy, and 130 when I went in to have Noelle. I gained the last pounds pretty quickly the last few days before I had her. I wrote the swelling and weight gain off as regular pregnancy symptoms, just like fatigue, shortness of breath and peeing alllll the time. Around the middle of June, I started getting really winded when I would do little things. And by little, I mean even walking from our living room to our kitchen (they’re one room from each other). I also would get extremely nauseated and my heart would begin pounding much harder. I began getting heart palpitations. At first, they weren’t bothering me, but when they frequented in intensity and duration, I just felt awful and even had blackouts. I remember one night in particular, Willie and I were lying in bed, and my heart started to beat so hard and fast that it felt like it was going to jump out of my chest. I felt the sensation that someone was beating my sternum with a hammer, and that is NOT a good feeling. Every time my OB would check my heart rate, it would be under 100, and that was normal, as well as the symptoms I’d been having, so how could we have known what was coming?          On July 1st, 2013, I gave birth via C-section to a gorgeous, extremely loud, 6 lb 14 oz 20 inch baby girl that we named Noelle Presley Spires. The C-section was quick, I didn’t feel a thing and all was well. My oxygen saturation level was a little low, but apparently not low enough to worry. All my other vitals were good. I was in the hospital until the 3rd and I was released to go home. Honestly, as far as I can remember, I felt fine after Noelle was born up untilJuly 4th. Willie, Noelle and I had planned to stay at my mom and stepdad’s for the week after her birth, just to have some help adjusting to life with a newborn. We grilled out, and when it began raining, started to watch movies. I felt fine all day long up until about 5 or 6 o’clock and I started feeling short of breath. This lasted until Willie, Noelle and I were going to bed. I laid in the bed for a few minutes, and all of a sudden, I couldn’t breathe. I walked into the living room to tell my mom, and I started crying because it felt like my lungs were being crushed. Not only that, but it sounded like pop rocks were going off when I could catch my breath.  My lungs were crackling like a fire and I felt like I was drowning.          My mom decided to call Fairview Park (where I had my C-section) because she remembered that shortness of breath was something to look out for after surgery. The woman on the other end of the line told her to immediately hang up and call 911, so she did. A few minutes later, the ambulance was at the house and an EMT listened to my lungs and checked my oxygen saturation and heart rate. He asked if we wanted to go to the hospital, and I said all I felt like I needed was a breathing treatment. My mom replied with, “Well, do we need to go?” And he said he couldn’t tell us, that it was up to us. Then mom saw that my O2 sat was 83. For someone around my age, our oxygen saturation should always be around 98-100 if that tells you anything. Needless to say, my dear mama decided for me. Off to the hospital we went.          In the ambulance I was put on 4 liters of oxygen and my heart rate was higher than 100 while resting. When we got to DCH, I was taken immediately to the OB wing. They put me on a rebreather mask (which I hated so, so much, by the way, it really makes your face sweat) because my O2 sat had risen to 85 but wasn’t doing much else, and within 20 minutes of being notified, the marvelous Dr. Barker (who I owe my life to!) was in to check me out. I was sitting in the hospital bed, sweating and struggling to breathe. She listened to my lungs and thought it sounded like pneumonia (I wish), then she ordered a chest x-ray. The chest x-ray revealed that I had severe pulmonary edema. Pulmonary edema is an abnormal buildup of fluid in the air sacs of the lungs, which leads to shortness of breath. A D-Dimer test was also done on me which tests for a pulmonary embolism. A pulmonary embolism is defined as a blockage in one or more arteries in your lungs, and is generally caused by blood clots. A normal result is around 250, and mine was 2,790. Because of this, I was going to be in the hospital at least overnight and I was going to have to be put on diuretics due to the excess amount of fluid on my lungs. This is when the 2nd worst part of the experience occurred…. I was going to have to get another catheter. Jesus, be with me. I used to be scared of needles, but the IV was so much better of an experience than the catheter. And that was the only time during my hospitalization that I acted ugly. I was trying to rip out my IV’s and all! Dr. Barker then told me I was a lot sicker than I realized and that this was necessary so I calmed down (slowly….but surely). It was imperative because the diuretics were going to make me tinkle and they didn’t want me in and out of bed every 5 minutes to pee. Really, when I had it in, I never even knew the Lasix were making me urinate unless someone mentioned it.          After the IV and the catheter were inserted, Dr. Barker ordered a CT scan to rule out a blood clot in my lungs. In my case, I did not have a pulmonary embolism (Praise the Lord!) or clot in my lungs, but because of the pulmonary edema I had to deal with the catheter and see if the fluid overload on my lungs would be alleviated.  I was placed in the ICU that night on the rebreather mask and my vitals were monitored.          The next day, which was a Friday, was mostly a day filled with draining the fluid from my lungs. The nurses began giving me blood thinner shots in my stomach (OW!!! So painful. Especially after giving birth) since I could not get out of bed. It was so hard to be there as a new mom not being able to have my sweet baby with me. I cried all morning because I couldn’t hold, hug or kiss my baby girl. Due to me being the only person in ICU, my Noelle was allowed to come see me through the back door. I could not thank Dr. Barker or the ICU nurses enough for letting this happen! I still cried, but because of happiness. Friday afternoon, an EKG was performed and it wasn’t much out of the ordinary. Dr. Barker proceeded to tell us that she was going to order an echocardiogram since I had just had a baby via an elective surgery and we didn’t really know what had caused the pulmonary edema. She didn’t think so, but she wanted to make sure that I didn’t have postpartum cardiomyopathy. And I just thought, “Okay, just another test to make sure all I’m dealing with is a pulmonary edema and we’re fixing that now… no worries…let’s do this and go home. Besides…what the heck is cardiomyopathy anyways?”          Then we get to Saturday morning. A sonographer came in to perform an echocardiogram (which is a sonogram of the heart). Electrodes were placed on my chest and a transducer was applied. Dr. Barker looked at the results and sent them to cardiologists to be better evaluated. When she got the diagnosis, a nurse called my mom and told her not to panic, but Dr. B was about to make her rounds in about an hour and wanted to whole family to be there. My mom hurried to the hospital and brought my sweet Noelle with her. Mom, Willie and I sat there in my ICU room not having a clue what we were about to hear. My room ended up being full of my aunts, uncles and cousins by the time Dr. B arrived. We all sat there while she explained the severity of my condition. Even though Dr. Barker just ordered the echocardiogram to be thorough and rule out a postpartum cardiomyopathy, that is just what I was diagnosed with.  My ejection fraction was 20%. When she told us that, all we could do was cry. It was a matter of life and death due to my ejection fraction being so low. Brother Tim Lamb who is the pastor of my Ganna and PaMick’s church and who also married Willie and me, was there when we received the news and right after, we began to pray and I held my baby girl tight because I felt like this was the end for me.          I will admit that I had never put so much faith in God, regardless of my years raised in church. Yes, I believed in God and I prayed from time to time, but I was more concerned with worldly things and not the aftermath. After receiving such news, I knew I had to put all my faith in Him because He and only He could heal me.          I was transferred to the Cardiovascular ICU of the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon. I was told that I was the youngest person in there (I’m 22) and everyone else had artificial hearts. Umm… do you know how that made me feel? Let me tell you, God heard all of the prayers because my cardiologist had nothing but good news for me. Dr. Tharpe told me that yes, my echo looked horrible, but clinically I looked much better than he had thought I would. He seemed hopeful for a recovery. I was transferred to a room in the heart tower of the medical center, and so thrilled to be out of the ICU! He put me on some medications and wanted to monitor me for a few days to see how I took to them. He even put in to quit the blood thinner shots! SO stoked because those things hurt like crazy!!!! So, basically, for the next several days, my medicine dosages were adjusted and I rested as much as you can in a hospital with Willie never leaving my side.          As of Monday, Noelle was 15 weeks old. I am certainly not well yet, but I am doing much better. I am on two medicines, Coreg and Lisinopril, that will hopefully reverse the nasty effects of the postpartum cardiomyopathy.  Twelve pounds of fluid was taken off of my lungs. That fluid was blood from my heart pumping into my lungs. When I went to my cardiology appointment on July 24th, my lungs were still clear with no sign of pulmonary edema. I went back in early September because I was blacking out, having chest pains and just felt all around horrible, so my cardiologist did another echo. My EF was the same. I will have another in February.I am so blessed to still be here with my beautiful family, because if we hadn’t found my pulmonary edema in time, we wouldn’t have found my PPCM, and I most likely wouldn’t still be here. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers and we will do the same for you. I have to thank my precious Savior. He has blessed me with a beautiful daughter, a wonderful, caring husband and the best family. I couldn’t ask for more. He has shown me much mercy and grace and made me a true woman of God throughout this ordeal. Life may be tough, but God is good… ALL the time, y’all!!!          My whole pregnancy, I never heard ONE THING about postpartum cardiomyopathy. My OB didn’t warn me of it, and nothing suggested that I had any issue with my heart. This condition has deeply affected me, but praise the Lord I am alive.  God bless you all. Xoxo

My Details

  • Date Diagnosed: 06/07/2013
  • Child: 1
  • Initial EF: 20%
  • Current EF: 20%

Story By Logan Spires

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