In the Beginning

I was diagnosed with heart failure on September 11, 2009: 57 days after giving birth to my first child and 262 after marrying my dream guy. I am prepared to beat this and live a better life than I had ever imagined for myself.

On Labor Day weekend I began feeling like I may have a respiratory infection or pneumonia. I was feeling pressure in my chest, having major difficulty breathing, and heart palpitations. It was a very busy weekend, and I was preparing to go back to work from maternity leave that following Tuesday. I quickly discounted it as my body’s was of dealing with the anxiety of returning to work. 
     I returned to work that Tuesday and felt perfectly fine; however, on Wednesday I began to feel crummy again. I was having trouble climbing the stairs and walking across campus at school. I assumed that this was just part of recovering from the pregnancy. I made a doctor’s appointment for that Friday, just to be on the safe side. I wanted to go ahead and knock out any virus or infection before I passed it on to Finn. On Thursday, I felt much better and almost cancelled my doctor’s appointment. That night I began to feel feverish and had a horrendous hacking cough the entire night and into the morning. I was able to take Finn to Ms. Annie and Mr. Arnold’s and get an earlier appointment with the doctor. After what seemed like forever, they called to the back to see the doctor. I described my symptoms and answered my doctor’s numerous questions. After doing an EKG and a chest X-ray, it was obvious something was wrong because of the amount of fluid in my lungs. He believed it was either blood clots or pneumonia, then recommended I go directly to the hospital. My mom came and got me from the doctor’s office and checked me into Providence Hospital. 
     Once I got to Providence it took about an hour or two to get settled in and all of my lab work drawn. Zac was at the school; it was a game day, and the coaches have to stay with the team after school until kickoff. He immediately made his way to me. The pulmonologist came into the room, listened to my chest, asked me about four questions, and told me it sounds like heart failure. He said, “I hope it’s not, but I really think it is transient heart failure. We’ll need to do an echocardiogram.” After about a one minute delay, I burst into tears. Since when does this happen to 24 year olds in perfect health? 
I went directly for an echocardiogram, and returned to my room. I was then sent to Radiology for another chest x-ray and a CT scan. I could barely stand for the x-ray, and by the time I got to CT they had canceled it and wanted me back in the room; the cardiologist was there waiting. When we arrived back in the room there several family members and my friend Tiffany there waiting for me. The cardiologist then proceeded to  tell us that I did have a rare form of heart failure called peripartum cardiomyopathy. PPCM is deterioration in cardiac function presenting typically between the last month of pregnancy and up to five months postpartum. I was told that it could slowly be treated with medications, but I needed to be prepared for possible transplant. To put it in layman’s terms: the left ventricle of your heart is what does most of the work for the whole heart. You have what is called an ejection fraction and that is the percent of blood that is squirted back out as your heart pumps it through. The healthy heart has an e.f. of approximately 60%; mine is less than 10%.  - A ticking time bomb-
     Since there are no transplant and peripartum heart failure specialists in Mobile, my family, doctor, and I decided it would be best to get to the nearest specialist asap: Ochsner Health System in New Orleans. They took me by ambulance on Sunday morning. I was petrified of what was to come, but relieved to be in the hands of the best.