Jessica Grib – Save the mommies
After the birth of her second child, Jessica was diagnosed with peripartum cardiomyopathy. She now is an American Heart Association volunteer and advocate for Save the Mommies, which you can learn more about at https://savethemommies.com/
My name is Jessica and I am a heart failure survivor. On Thursday, September 29, 2016, the same day my beautiful daughter was born, I was brought back to life.
It all started with a seemingly normal pregnancy until 34 weeks when my blood pressure began to spike. Medication and bedrest didn’t help, so at 37 weeks, a decision was made to induce me.
We were well into the induction when little miss Amelia decided to flip, becoming breech. Therefore, a c-section was performed. Although I have no memory of it, I am told that my husband, Kevin, cut Amelia’s umbilical cord, she was put next to my face, photographs were being taken, and all seemed well with this new family. Then, all hell broke loose.
My heart rate skyrocketed and my oxygen plummeted. Doctors and nurses flew into the room and Kevin was asked to wait in the hallway with Amelia. I was taken to the cardiac cath lab where I coded and was brought back to life. CPR was performed on me for 10 minutes and not ONE heartbeat was missed. Words like, “She’s 30 years old, we stop at nothing,” and “We’re not going to lose her, we’re not going to lose her” echoed in the room. My cardiologist had the incredibly difficult job of explaining the severity of my condition to my family. They were told to expect the worst; that my 2 year old son and my newborn daughter would be without a mother and my husband would lose his high-school sweetheart. I was diagnosed with Peripartum Cardiomyopathy (PPCM) and I was in cardiogenic shock.
An Abiomed Impella, which is like a tiny propeller, was placed in my heart to buy me enough time to get to a different hospital to be placed on ECMO, a life-saving machine that takes the place of your heart, lungs, and kidneys. My ejection fraction (EF), which measures how well your heart is functioning, was at 5%. Normal EF is typically between 55-60%. I had a long road ahead of me hooked up to so many maximal life support systems: Impella, ECMO, central lines, balloon pump, feeding tube, and ventilator. Eventually, my heart started to beat normally again. It was just a blimp here and there on the monitor, but it gave my family hope. As my heart began to recover, the machines were slowly weaned away. Once all of the life support systems were removed, I was able to “meet” my 2 week old daughter for the first time since her birth. Miraculously, three weeks after delivering my daughter, I was able to go home.
After my discharge from the hospital, my peripartum cardiologist discovered that I had a tumor, called a pheochromocytoma, located next to my adrenal gland. After my c-section, this tumor released hormones throughout my body which caused a tsunami of adrenaline pulsing through my body and stopped my heart dead it in tracks. My life-saving tumor removal surgery was performed when my daughter was three months old. Since then, I have made a full recovery able to be the busy mother and wife I have always dreamed of being. My EF is now at 60% and I am healthier than ever. If it wasn’t for the incredible knowledge and impeccable skills of medical teams at both hospitals and all of the state-of-the-art life support systems, I have no doubt I would not be alive today.
I have made it my mission to educate people about heart failure in childbirth and have partnered with a non-profit organization called Save The Mommies. Save The Mommies works tirelessly to ensure that women, families, and medical professionals know the signs and symptoms of PPCM, which are often dismissed as ordinary pregnancy/postpartum symptoms. There is even a self-test on savethemommies.com to determine if a pregnant woman would benefit from being seen by a cardiologist.
I want to share this story to raise awareness for PPCM. So many women are not as fortunate as I was and leave their babies growing up without their mommies. This is a silent epidemic as the United States has one of the highest maternal mortality rates across the world - even in underdeveloped countries. Please help me raise awareness for PPCM around the country.