Diagnosis: Peripartum Cardiomyopathy
Treatment: Heart Transplantation
When Allyson was pregnant with her now 8-year-old son, a flu virus severely weakened her heart. After eight months of an uneventful pregnancy, she was retaining pounds of fluid and could hardly muster the strength to crawl in bed. Allyson had developed peripartum cardiomyopathy: a form of heart failure that inexplicably occurs in some women during pregnancy.
Doctors decided to induce labor more than a month early, after her heart began to deteriorate. An obstetrician, cardiologist, and pediatrician were all present in the labor room. Allyson told her husband and family if only one life could be saved, she wanted it to be the baby’s.
Allyson’s son Benjamin grew healthy and strong, but her heart continued to decline over the next six years. While Allyson would experience good weeks and bad, in 2007 things changed for the worse. During a hiking trip to Europe she began experiencing severe abdominal pain with any physical exertion. When she returned to the Heart Failure Clinic with an ejection fraction of less than 20 percent, doctors determined she needed a heart transplant.
Allyson received a new heart on March 16, 2007.
Since her heart transplant, Allyson has enjoyed spending time with her husband and son. She has also returned to work doing public relations for the Capitol Preservation Board and the governor. “Our lives have been changed forever in our household,” she said. “I have to tell you, it’s a blessing.”
Although doctors still aren’t sure what causes peripartum cardiomyopathy, researchers at Intermountain Medical Center have discovered genetic markers that predict higher risk for the disease. By monitoring high-risk patients sooner, doctors can provide better cardiac care for pregnant mothers and their children.