Twenty-two years ago, I had a beautiful baby girl. Six days later, I was diagnosed with postpartum cardiomyopathy.
My second pregnancy was similar to my first one, particularly the first few months. I was nauseous and tired and some food didn’t agree with me. Toothpaste made me want to gag - that was a new one - and not overly welcome as you can imagine. I was heavier at the beginning of my second pregnancy as my son was only 13 months old (yes, my kids are close in age!). Late into my second trimester, I noticed that the morning sickness hadn’t gone away, it continued the entire pregnancy. My blood pressure was amazing. I spent the entire nine months at 120/80. During the third trimester, I was lightheaded but chalked it up to being pregnant. And when I say pregnant, I was pregnant from head to toe! I gained the same amount of weight as with my first pregnancy, but it was distributed everywhere.
My first baby was delivered via cesarian, and I was hoping to avoid that this time. I worked downtown at the time and made it a habit to walk from my office to the other end of the City Centre Mall and back - probably a half-hour walk. My doctor thought it was a good idea. I was healthy, the baby was healthy, and it would help with those pelvic floor muscles.
The weekend before my due date, of course, I had no movement. My doctor and I had a long relationship, and we just agreed that I don’t go into labour. So we booked a cesarian for my due date. Then, I caught a cold with a bad cough. But the girl needed to come out so we proceeded. Everything went beautifully! She was 9 pounds, 6 ounces and 20.5 inches long. She looked three months old, with folds of chunky, beautiful fat everywhere. The epitome of a big, healthy baby! Knowing how big she was, one can now understand why I was so big during my pregnancy.
The night before we were to be released from the hospital, I kept feeling like I had a weight on my chest. I had to keep raising the head of my bed higher to get comfortable.
The pressure eased a bit the higher I sat up. Remember, I had a cough, so that’s what I was attributing to this pressure. My doctor came to check on me before I was released, and I almost didn’t mention it to him, because why would I bother my OB/GYN with this? Anyway, I did say something. He checked things out and thought that maybe I had some water in my lungs from the surgery. Obviously, I wasn’t released and started to undergo a battery of tests. One of the nurses, who had quickly become my favourite, told me there was a posse of doctors arguing about me at the nurses' station. They didn’t know what was wrong with me. The group consisted of my OB/GYN, a cardiologist, several resident doctors, an internal specialist and a couple of others.
Finally, after six days of being in the hospital, the internal specialist shows up in my room at around 7:00 pm and drops the bomb on me that I have postpartum cardiomyopathy. He bluntly explained what it meant, then sat back and read my magazine. I sat there stunned and for some stupid reason didn’t want to interrupt his reading. Finally, he left, and my husband showed up. I didn’t cry until I saw him. I needed to move so we went for a walk around the hospital while I told him everything I knew. My heart was three times the size it should have been, I had a GFR of 35. One-third with my condition get worse, one-third stay the same and one-third get better. My blood pressure was up about 153/98, I was out of breath from that short walk.
This “thing” that happens is spontaneous and can happen to one in 1000 pregnancies. My OB/GYN was beside himself. I was his first patient to have this condition and he had known me since I was 14 years old. He took it hard as well. I had not shown any symptoms - it just happened.
Once I got over the initial shock, I took it for what it was. I had a newborn and a two-year-old and there is no time for wallowing or finding coping mechanisms. I did what the doctors told me, went to all my appointments, took the pills they gave me, and just moved on. It wasn’t until that summer that I got mad. My son wanted to play tag in the backyard, and I could hardly join in. I was so out of breath and weak. I was finally feeling pissed off at this condition.
I am considered a case that got better, but it took years (until my kids were in their mid-teens). My GFR is at 55 and my blood pressure is around 122/80. I am better and feel great now.
I’ve always wanted to share my story with other women, so thank you for allowing me this opportunity. It happens and it sucks. There is no other way to put it.