Health + Wellness

A Joyous Birth, Followed by Heart Failure


heart failure
Photo courtesy of Danecia Williams

Although Danecia Williams was 24 and healthy, her first pregnancy took a toll on her body. Her blood pressure spiked, straining her heart and other organs. heart failure

Doctors diagnosed her with preeclampsia and closely monitored her and the baby for months. They braced for what might happen when she went into labor. Indeed, her heart rate skyrocketed while the baby’s plummeted, prompting an emergency cesarean section.

Williams greeted her new baby boy, Isaiah, as her blood pressure continued to climb. She stayed in the hospital for a week until her numbers stabilized.

She’d been home in Wichita, Kansas, for only two days when she started gasping for air. Her legs swelled. Williams’ mother rushed her to the doctor, who said an X-ray showed heart failure.

Williams thought heart failure was a condition for old people, not for a new mom in her 20s.

“Am I about to die?” she thought. “I have this brand new baby. Who is going to care for him?”

Williams went right to the hospital. An echocardiogram showed her heart was functioning at 25% capacity. Doctors determined she had peripartum cardiomyopathy, a rare condition in which the heart muscle weakens during or right after pregnancy.

RELATED: Can You Tell If Your Own Heart Is Failing?

About her condition

They told her that people with similar heart function typically have around five years to live. She received an implantable cardioverter defibrillator.

Williams felt depressed and anxious. She couldn’t stop worrying. To take her mind off her diagnosis, she became active. She spent time with her son, went out with friends every weekend and became active with her church.

Six years later, she was increasingly tired. It was hard to climb the stairs to her bedroom. She felt sick to her stomach.

A few days after Christmas, Williams was in the kitchen getting cantaloupe for Isaiah. Across the room, her brother watched her drop a

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