Albuquerque mother receives heart transplant after delivery

I started what I like to call my “long term relationship” with Lovelace on November 10, 2013. I delivered a beautiful baby girl named Kassidy at Lovelace Women’s Hospital. The amount of support that my husband and I received from the nurses and the entire delivery and post-partum staff was so encouraging and gave me the confidence that I needed. I am forever grateful for the kind words and positive experience from Lovelace Woman’s Hospital.

About four weeks after my delivery I became incredibly sick. I had been in and out of urgent cares, my primary care and my OB/GYN offices, yet no one could figure out what was wrong with me. I was unfortunately misdiagnosed several times, and by the end of four weeks post-partum, I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t breathe, I was no longer able to hold my own child let alone feed her. On December 21t, 2013, my husband took me to the Lovelace Westside Hospital emergency room, where I went into sudden cardiac arrest. The intensive care unit (ICU) staff worked intensely on me and gave my husband any answers that they could give to his numerous questions. The staff at Lovelace Westside Hospital made the decision to transfer me over to Lovelace Medical Center where I would get more help in my critical condition.

It was early morning on December 22 when I arrived at Lovelace Medical Center. It was very evident there was a possibility I wouldn’t make it. My family started to show up. My MRI, CT, X-rays and blood work all came back and revealed I was in total heart failure. But why? There was someone who would know, and that someone was at Heart Hospital of New Mexico at Lovelace Medical Center. So with permission from my husband, the Lovelace Medical Center ICU staff packed me up once more and transferred me across the street to Heart Hospital of New Mexico. I was impressed by the fact that the worry my family was showing very similar to the worry from the staff at Lovelace Medical Center. They didn’t even know me, but immediately cared about me. I am thankful for the genuine love they showed my family.

The sun was coming up; I was being transferred into a bed at the Heart Hospital of New Mexico when Dr. Mark Bieniarz walked in. With confidence in his voice and determination to save me, he quickly explained to my family that I had peripartum cardiomyopathy, a very rare and extremely serious condition. Dr. Bieniarz explained the procedure that he would have to do to save my life. He handed my husband the papers to sign, and off I went.

With help from Dr. Brendan Cavanaugh, Dr. Bieniarz placed a temporary pump that would allow my heart to rest. The next couple days my family could only stare at me and wonder if I would make it. Feeling helpless that they couldn’t do anything for me, they found peace and comfort from the supportive staff at Heart Hospital of New Mexico. Then the day came, and I woke up. I was scared, didn’t remember anything, and I didn’t know where my daughter was. I was calmed by family, nurses and doctors. I spent three months in the care of Heart Hospital of New Mexico, but my heart was too far gone for them to save. Still, they had tried everything they could.

I was sent to San Diego on a med flight set up by the care coordination provided by Lovelace. I was sad to leave the comfort of Heart Hospital of New Mexico at Lovelace Medical Center. The nurses, doctors and staff had become more like family than caregivers. The cafeteria staff knew my favorite soup. The cleaning staff knew I didn’t like the smell of the bathroom cleaner, so they would only use it if I was out of the room. The nurses knew my entire family by their first names. Everyone cared about me.

After one left ventricular assist device (LVAD), an implantable cardioverter device (ICD) placement and finally a heart transplant in San Diego, I was able to move back to Albuquerque with my family in October 2014. As a transplant patient, it’s inevitable that I will get sick. I have been cared for multiple times by emergency department staff at Heart Hospital of New Mexico and Lovelace Medical Center after my transplant. I have also been admitted for observation at Heart Hospital of New Mexico several times. Both emergency rooms know me by name and care for me just the same as if it was my first time being sick, scared and in pain.

I appreciate the presence that Lovelace has in my life. I am a product of Lovelace’s care and commitment to their patients. I was never alone, nor was my family. Lovelace has heart, and they saved mine.