At three months old I had a ventricular septal defect (VSD) repair and had not had trouble with my heart since. On Friday October 30, 2021, my life completely flashed before my eyes. I was 20-weeks pregnant with my son, and I was in atrial fibrillation (AF) with my heart racing up to 190 beats per minute (bpm). I was immediately sent to the emergency room from a routine OB/GYN appointment.
While the doctors tried continuously to get my heart rate down, it wasn’t budging. I was told the scariest thing I'd ever heard. "You're in heart failure, and you need to terminate the pregnancy. “ My mom and husband were sitting in the emergency room with me, just as devastated. It was the most gut-wrenching news I’d ever heard. Honestly as crazy as it is, in that very moment I said, “no way!” Somehow, I just knew that couldn't happen.
Of course, after bursting into tears and panic, a wonderful doctor named Dr. Branch at Duke Hospital had the same hope I did. He insisted on trying to save us both. I was then rushed over to the emergency room at Duke Hospital after several days in the ICU at Duke Regional. I had about 10 pounds of fluid as well as swelling around my lungs that was causing my heart to work into overdrive.
After a very traumatic experience in the ICU for five days, I was cardioverted and back in sinus rhythm. Unfortunately, my journey had just begun, and I ended up spending a total of six hospital stays from that day until I delivered my son via emergency C-section on February 22, 2022. Everything that could have gone "wrong and traumatic" in my eyes did. I went through two days of induced labor while in AF. I was sent to the ICU after delivery, while my son was sent to the NICU. We were so blessed to be alive at the end of it all.
My road to recovery continues. Day by day, I'm getting better and stronger. I consider myself a heart failure warrior and will continue to keep my hope! My heart may never recover fully, but I'm blessed to have my son!
Read on for a Q&A with Brittany:
I have never appreciated my life more than I do now. We really do take simple things for granted, like taking a hot shower, waking up without pain, being able to care for ourselves without any assistance. The list goes on. When you suddenly become dependent on doctors and nurses for simple, routine care, it really makes you appreciate them!
I've unfortunately been out of work for almost six months, but it has allowed me to focus on walking a couple times a week and keeping my sodium down to reduce swelling and inflammation.
My recovery has been progressing well, and honestly, what keeps me going is the love and support from family and friends. I've reached out to other woman who have gone through similar situations a myself, and I've found a lot of comfort in that - knowing I'm not alone in this and finding others that can relate.
My advice would be to focus on recovering versus the horrible term "heart failure." Keep busy with things you enjoy and never lose hope!
Being a heart failure warrior makes me feel stronger and more appreciative of life itself. I always say things could be worse, and I strive to keep my positive attitude.