I was unaware of my rheumatic heart disease until I was 29 years old on pregnant. I went into heart failure while pregnant as a result of my undiagnosed rheumatic heart disease. My reported symptoms including shortness of breath, weight gain, swollen fluid filled feet, trouble sleeping were all dismissed as typical pregnancy symptoms. Unfortunately that was not the case. On March 22, 2011 at what was supposed to be a routine OBGYN visit turned into a day filled with multiple pre-natal testing, screenings, which ultimately ended in a decision to do an emergency C-Section in order to save my daughter’s life. Still no one was aware that I was in heart failure. The C-Section was successful and my daughter was who was severely IUGR was born weighing 2lbs 12oz. She was in the NICU and all the focus was on her health and survival.
The following night after my emergency C-Section I had trouble sleeping and breathing became difficult. I reported it to the hospital staff and they brought in a respiratory team to give me a nebulizer treatment. Still no one was aware I was I heart failure. The following morning they sent me to do an echocardiogram and that’s when it was discovered that I had fluid buildup in my lungs and that I had scaring on my valve, which indicated rheumatic heart disease. The seriousness on my condition was downplayed and they gave me some Lasix to help to diurese me. That night I realized how serious my situation was when I went into respiratory distress, which required emergency lifesaving intervention including a large dose of IV Lasix. I was transferred from the maternity unit to the cardiac step down unit and officially became a cardiac patient.
This was a devastating time for my family as my two day old premature baby was in the NICU and I was in the cardiac unit trying to figure out what was happening. I was discharged from the hospital a week later and referred to a cardiologist and that was where my cardiac journey began. My Cardiologist confirmed that I had mitral valve regurgitation and stenosis, aortic valve regurgitation and tricuspid valve regurgitation. I was devastated. He did not know if it was the pregnancy and the hemodynamic shift that caused my disease to worsen so he decided to follow-up with me after a year to see what my baseline echocardiogram would reveal. Sadly a year later my follow-up echocardiogram revealed that the mitral valve regurgitation was severe and there was some heart enlargement as a result.
The decision to repair my valve was made and on December 11, 2012, I underwent my first open heart surgery. It was terrifying. I felt a lot of emotions because I always say myself as a healthy person and did not expect that I would need to undergo heart surgery at the tender age of 31 years old. The heart valve repair was successful and after a 3-6 month recovery period I was cleared to continue living my life as an active 31 year old.
I felt the ordeal was over but surprisingly when I went in for a routine echocardiogram in October 2015, I learned that the mitral regurgitation had returned and the repair did not hold up. I was devastated. The decision was made to replace the trouble valve and on May 6, 2016 I underwent my second open heart surgery. I opted for a tissue prosthetic valve, which means that I am guaranteed a 3rd surgery in the coming years.
There is nothing I could have done to prevent myself from rheumatic heart disease but I want to help to educate others about the importance of living a healthful lifestyle. I want to share my story in the hope that I can encourage other women to take charge of their health to help prevent heart disease and other preventable chronic conditions.
A special thank you to Christine Petit of Le Petit Studio for taking photos of the Hoffman Go Red Gallery women. www.PetitPics.com
Since this time last year I started a heart disease survivor blog called the heart life. I also launched a heart disease survivor podcast of the same name where I interview other survivors in order to raise awareness and empower other women. I Also got to take a European vacation that was on my bucket list and visited London, Brussels, Amsterdam and Stockholm. I am now training to run my first half marathon later this year. Life is great!