When Elizabeth Mu??oz learned she was expecting her second child, she never imagined the traumatic, frightening experience lying ahead. Heart disease had affected some of the women on her mother?s side of the family after they reached 50. But at only 30 years old, this young mother wasn't too concerned.
When she was pregnant with her first daughter, now three years old, Elizabeth developed hypertension. American Heart Association?s data reports this happens in about eight percent of all pregnancies, typically after the 20th week. It could be the result of rapid weight gain - Elizabeth gained approximately 50 pounds during that pregnancy.
Elizabeth was only 29 weeks pregnant with her second child when she felt an intense pain in her chest. She was at work, so the people in her office immediately called 911. She was taken to Martin Luther King Hospital, complaining of sever pain and pressure, and a sensation of a very hot liquid running inside her chest.
An ultrasound and CAT scan revealed a dangerous situation: her main artery had ruptured. Elizabeth was immediately transferred to the Cardiology Department at USC Hospital, where she was evaluated by Dr. Ismael Nu?o.
The prognosis was not good. About 90 percent of patients with this condition die. Her baby had to be delivered by cesarean right away. He was only 2.11 pounds at birth, and had to be revived because he was not breathing. Elizabeth?s life was also in tremendous danger. Her blood pressure had plummeted with the anesthesia. Dr. Nu?o spent several hours repairing her ruptured artery. Fortunately for Elizabeth, the tissue around it had semi contained the hemorrhage.
Elizabeth?s recuperation was remarkable. She was allowed to leave the hospital only a week after the two major surgeries. Adrian, her baby, had to remain hospitalized until January 6, almost two months after his birth on November 5, 2002.
When Elizabeth Mu?oz first arrived at USC Hospital her doctors were not optimistic. They were not sure they could save either the baby or the young mother. Her husband prayed for a miracle. He got two. Both mother and child are doing well now. Little Adrian had a setback when he was first released from the hospital, and had to be put on monitors again, but he?s home again, to the delight of his parents and big sister.
Her doctors have given Elizabeth the OK to go back to a normal life, including moderate exercise. At times she?s still afraid something might go wrong. But overall she?s a happy mother who enjoys the blessings her two beautiful kids represent.
Elizabeth now wants everyone, particularly Latinas, to know that heart disease does not discriminate. It can strike at any time, at any age; even during pregnancy, when everything seems to be going well.
?Don?t put it off?, she says. ?Have regular check ups, especially if heart disease runs in your family. It?s never too early to take care of your health.?
Edie J. Herons:
Edie J. Herons is the Latino Media Director at the American Heart Association and is a regular contributor to LatinoLA.