Health + Wellness

“I Just Didn’t Feel Right”


Peripartum cardiomyopathy
Phot via Tiara Johnson

Tiara Johnson’s second pregnancy went smoothly – until the last month.

“My fingers were so puffy, I couldn’t wear my wedding ring,” she shares.

The problem stemmed from her blood pressure. And the rising blood pressure stemmed from preeclampsia, a complication of pregnancy that usually manifests in the later months.

Tiara, who lives in Fraser, Michigan, was given medication to control her blood pressure. It didn’t work, so a few days later, she was sent to the hospital to have labor induced.

After delivering her second daughter, Azuri, Tiara’s blood pressure remained elevated. When she went home a few days later, she couldn’t get comfortable.

“I just didn’t feel right,” Tiara says. “The day after we went home, I noticed that I couldn’t breathe and it wasn’t relieved by lying down or sitting up or anything else. I went to take a shower and it felt like I was breathing underwater when I was inhaling. You could literally hear the gurgling of how much fluid I had in me. We ended up calling 911 and returning to the hospital.”

She was treated for fluid retention and sent home again. She continued to feel tired but attributed it to recovery from childbirth and life with a newborn.

RELATED: A Joyous Birth, Followed by Heart Failure

Her diagnosis and road to getting a heart transplant

Two months later, Tiara passed out in the parking lot at work. Taken by ambulance to a different hospital, she received a different diagnosis: Peripartum cardiomyopathy, an uncommon form of heart failure that happens during the last month of pregnancy or within the first five months after giving birth. A physician said her heart was working at 10% of its normal function. A normal range is 50-75%, according to the American Heart Association

“I was confused and distraught,” she adds. “When you think of heart failure, you don’t think of someone who is 26.”

Over the next three and a half years, Tiara was constantly in and out of the hospital as doctors worked to ease the strain on her heart.

“My heart function wasn’t getting better and I was working 60 hours per week as a program manager. My husband was telling me to

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