Rare heart condition affection pregnant woman - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Rare heart condition affection pregnant woman

MIAMI (WFLX) - It's a rare but serious condition that affects pregnant women and sometimes their babies.

Jannelle Mesa has fond memories of a happy and active life. "After school, I always went to the gym for about four hours, after that I would go to kickboxing for another hour. I was very athletic."

Then, at the age of 20, she got pregnant. But, instead of getting that pregnancy glow, her health started to go downhill quickly "I wouldn't be doing anything. I'd be watching TV laying down, and I would already be trying to catch my breath."

Her symptoms got so bad, she ended up in the hospital.  The diagnosis was shocking; Jannelle was suffering from advanced heart failure or Peripartum Cardiomyopathy. "Cardiomyopthay occurs when the heart muscle becomes weak for any number of reasons and the heart begins to fail," said Mesa.

Doctors at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine say it's a rare but very serious condition. "It is the leading cause of death in pregnant women in the United States," said Dr. Ray Hershberger, cardiologist,  UM Miller School of Medicine.

Part of the problem is the disease often goes undiagnosed because the symptoms mimic those of late-stage pregnancy. "Swelling in the feet and legs, shortness of breath, fatigue, tiredness," said Herschberger.

By the time it's discovered, the patient usually needs a heart transplant.

Jannelle's heart was barely pumping at all. "I felt like I was dying," she described.

She gave birth to her daughter, Tatiana, more than two months early and was rushed into the operation room for a heart transplant.  "When I woke up with that new heart, I felt good. The moment I woke up, I felt good."

Doctors at UM are studying the condition. They believe the stress of pregnancy can trigger cardiomyopathy and that it may be hereditary.

Turns out Jannelle's father also has it, but his is under control.

Now, Jannelle treasures every moment she has with her daughter. She's feeling stronger and is looking forward to a healthy future with her family. "I'm not leaving anytime soon. There's obviously a reason why I'm still here."

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