My name is DeAnna Stewart, and I am a heart failure survivor. At 35 years of age and two weeks to the day after the birth of my second child, I became the face of heart failure. Not your typical heart failure, but a pregnancy related heart failure patient. It’s called Peripartum Cardiomyopathy (PPCM) and I, like thousands of other women, never knew such a condition existed. We never read it in any pregnancy magazine or book or saw a pamphlet in a physician’s office. We were not made aware by our physicians that this was even a possibility.
Finally, the home stretch, right? We all look forward to the last months and getting that much closer to seeing our new little one(s). Our daughter Olivia who was four at the time was getting excited. My husband on the other hand had a dream that he had to choose between the baby or I at the hospital. That was scary as heck. So, he was on pins and needles. Especially since I had some weird symptoms throughout the pregnancy such as shortness of breath, dizziness, blackout, and extreme fatigue from the first trimester on. I couldn’t even stand up and sing one song in church without having to sit down because I felt like I was going to faint. Who knew how close that dream was to come to reality?
William was born on December 31, 2007. Induction was done to keep me from going full preeclamptic and believe me I was ready to burst. He was just so beautiful and perfect. What a perfect little addition to our little family. Bringing our son into the world that day was easy. However, what was to follow was not.
On January 14, 2008, exactly two weeks after giving birth, I was taken to the ER via ambulance. My husband Michael was getting ready to leave for work at 3:30 a.m. as he works 1st shift. I was woken up by a severe heaviness in my chest, so I got out of bed to see if I could shake it off. It just intensified. I flopped on the bed and asked my husband if this is what a heart attack feels like. He asked what I was feeling, and I said, “there is an elephant sitting on my chest!” At that moment I knew I had to get downstairs to the living room because if 911 was going to be called I did not want them coming upstairs and waking up our two-week-old son and our four-year-old daughter.
Michael didn’t even know how I got there, but he had called over a neighbor and called 911 by the time he caught up with me downstairs. Our neighbor John came over and held my hand while Michael was on the phone with tears in his voice saying, “I think my wife is having a heart attack.” John said, “What do we do?” and my answer was, “I don’t know man, but this hurts like hell!” Soon we could hear the sirens in the distance, and relief and fear both hit me at the same time. What were they going to say? Was I on death’s door?
When the EMTs arrived, I was monitored and then quickly put on a gurney and put in the ambulance. They had backed into our driveway. As we were pulling away all I could think, as I looked at our house and towards the second floor where my children were fast asleep was, “will I be back to get to see them again, or is this the last time?”
I spent five hours in the ER waiting for them to figure out what was wrong with me. They tried nitro pills and antacids. An X-ray was done to rule out a pulmonary embolism. Finally, an ER nurse had them do a BNP blood test. When they saw that this number was elevated, they called in a cardiologist. The cardiologist arrived 3 hours later and then he sent me straight to the Cath Lab for a right heart Cath…resulting in a heart failure diagnosis. I could have died waiting for them all to figure all this out and send me to the right places for testing.
It took me two and half years to recover. I was put on 3.25mg of Coreg. I took this at bedtime since it made me drowsy. Along with the heart medicine I took an anxiety medicine for my PTSD from the trauma.
No one, not even me expected heart failure. Which is really bothersome if you think about it. Why are people in medicine not trained to look for this condition or even suspect it?
And that is why 10 years after recovering led me to start an organization to help advocate, educate, and make people aware of this condition. Save the Mommies, my nonprofit PPCM awareness organization, came to be after hearing a story on the radio that another mom died only 10 hours after having her son, her first born! I yelled God we need to Save the Mommies and from that I prayed and created my nonprofit. We received our 501c3 status on October 31, 2017. I can’t believe we are almost at our 5 year anniversary.
Since starting a nonprofit, we have helped Heart Sister’s financially, we have joined with other maternal mortality mom groups and nonprofits to help pass maternal health bills, and we have been able to get a PPCM awareness week in my state of Nebraska and then also in Tennessee, Missouri, Illinois and North Carolina. We have had a golf tournament and various awareness walks to help raise awareness and raise funds toward saving lives. Save the Mommies is actively helping with research regarding PPCM with Loving Mothers’ Hearts out of Sarasota Memorial Hospital and funds raised help fund their research efforts.
To learn more about Save the Mommies and what all Deanna and her team are doing, check out her website savethemommies.com
Copyright © 2017-2023 Expecting Hearts Inc - All Rights Reserved. Expecting Hearts has been developed to bring awareness to PPCM for educational purposes only. Please consult a health care professional for medical advice and treatment.
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