At the age of 28, as she had never drunk or smoked, it was a real shock to be diagnosed with PPCM, just four months after giving birth to her second son. She later discovered that this condition already existed on her father’s side of the family.
During this painful transition, she moved from Indiana to Atlanta. In Atlanta, for what she thought was just the flu, she went to the ER. Incidentally, there was a flu pandemic going on at the time. The practice was packed. She was not able to breathe, was retaining fluid, and overall, she just felt sick. After a short general examination, she was sent home with a prescription for pneumonia and was not supposed to come back before three days. Two days later, still feeling awful, she decided to go back to the ER. Luckily, this time around, one of the attending doctors got some X-rays of her. After analyzing the x-ray films, he explained to her that not only she has walking pneumonia, she also had a hole in her lungs, congestive heart failure, and PPCM (Peripartum Cardiomyopathy).
PPCM is a weakness of the heart muscle that, by definition, begins sometime during the final month of pregnancy through about five months after delivery, without any other known cause. Most commonly, it occurs right after delivery. It is a rare condition that can carry mild or severe symptoms. After this shocking news, she immediately thought of her kids – who will look after them? After collapsing and crying a lot, she decided to fight! Against the doctors’ advice, Warrior Tina left the hospital. Her mother joined her two days later.
After realizing that she would need more help in her daily life, Kathy, a former colleague, and friend joined them. Kathy works in the medical field. She was very beneficial and supportive. The first time her team introduced the idea of an LVAD implantation inside her heart to help it function better, Tina thought that the device would be all internally inserted like an ICD. She thought to herself that she could handle that. After a couple of days, the physician & his team came back to show her a demo LVAD pump. They explained the procedure to her and how the pump functions. Tina remembers not wanting this at all, firstly thinking about who will want to date her with this!
The doctors explained that she had run out of options; this was the next best option to a heart transplant which she needed but could not yet have. So, she decided bravely to have the procedure and begin learning the dos and don’ts and how to live with the LVAD. This was the beginning of her new life. While still at the hospital, she prepared herself to be as self-sufficient as possible. She had had open-heart surgery, and the entire medical team was cheering for her to excel before she could be discharged. This helped her a lot when she arrived home to resume her life as usual as possible. It also enabled her to continue her psychotherapy and cardiac rehab, which she continues as an outpatient.
As a real independent woman, Tina, a self-described, slightly stubborn one, wanted to change her driveline exit dressing, herself against the team’s recommendation. She managed to do well, thanks to some good preparation and her long torso. She could do it from the first day she arrived home!
Even though Tina likes to joke about her LVAD, she acknowledges that it saved her life. For instance, she once had a cardiac arrest while driving her son to school. She had a heart rate of 392. Without the LVAD, she would no longer be with us! Most of her colleagues were unaware of her disability. They all admired how she handles living with heart disease and how she remains positive under all circumstances, especially after having open-heart surgery.
Tina explains that she may expect to have tough days. But she is convinced, deep inside her, that she will always get back up and continue her fight. She is committed to sharing her story to help other mothers not die of PPCM and still thrive, to be able to connect and share with other women with a similar experience or concerned family members. Tina also advocates for medical staffs to be more aware and much more involved.
All of these make her very proud! It all gives meaning to her life, allows her to live her purpose, and of course, to wear on her stilettos and skinny jeans!
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