A Complete Recovery for a Young Mother’s Heart
Cecy Wells, 30, and her husband Andy were overjoyed to welcome a new addition to their family.
As a mother of two, Cecy manages various health conditions, including Type 1 diabetes and Addison’s disease, a disorder in which the adrenal glands are unable to produce sufficient hormones. Since her first pregnancy was complicated, Cecy and Andy decided to adopt their second child. A year later, Cecy learned she was pregnant with their third child.
Cecy experienced a challenging pregnancy and at 32 weeks, her water broke. Andy brought Cecy to the Ogden Regional Medical Center in Ogden, UT and she was admitted for a C-section.
The delivery went smoothly and without complications. Cecy and Andy welcomed Kennedy Wells to the world. However, two days following the delivery, Cecy began to feel chest pain and shortness of breath. As her symptoms intensified, she expressed concern to her team of nurses and her physician decided to perform additional testing. The respiratory team performed a chest X-ray and CT scan to rule out the possibility that a pulmonary embolism, a condition in which one or more arteries in the lungs become blocked by a blood clot, was causing her shortness of breath.
Cecy’s breathing continued to deteriorate and she began to panic. Though the testing ruled out the possibility of a pulmonary embolism, it revealed that Cecy’s heart was severely weak. This ultimately led the team to believe that she may have developed post-partum cardiomyopathy, an uncommon form of heart failure that happens during the last month of pregnancy or up to five months after giving birth. They rushed Cecy back to her room for immediate care.
At the same time, Andy was visiting Kennedy in the neonatal intensive care unit when a nurse asked him to return to Cecy’s room as soon as possible. Andy remembers seeing the physician who delivered Kennedy rush by him in the hallway. At that moment, he knew something was terribly wrong.
In Cecy’s room, a team of medical staff surrounded her bed. Andy approached Cecy, placed his hand on her shoulders and said, “Everything will be okay.” A code alerting the rapid response team then sounded throughout the hospital.
Cecy’s poor breathing required her to be intubated and her blood pressure was very low despite multiple medications. Cecy’s heart was failing and she was in cardiogenic shock, a life-threatening condition in which the heart is suddenly unable to pump enough blood and oxygen to support the body’s vital organs.
Once in the catheterization lab, Dr. Julia Ansari, interventional cardiologist and director of the catheterization lab, knew the Impella® heart pump would be needed to support Cecy’s weak heart. She inserted the Impella CP® heart pump through the femoral artery of Cecy’s groin to the heart’s main pumping chamber. The cardiology team then ran a diagnostic angiogram to identify why her heart had weakened. To their surprise, Cecy did not have post-partum cardiomyopathy but instead, she had significant blockages in every main artery of her heart. Diabetes and Addison’s disease are risk factors for premature coronary disease. Fortunately with the support of the Impella heart pump, Dr. Ansari placed stents and restored blood flow to Cecy’s heart without surgery.
“You don’t think a young woman is going to have a heart attack, but you need to know there is that possibility. I don’t feel like somebody who had a heart attack. Everybody needs to do research and to know what the signs and symptoms are.”
Following the procedure, Cecy was transferred to the ICU to be monitored. After two days, Cecy’s heart recovered, the Impella device was removed and Cecy no longer had any symptoms of heart failure. Her ejection fraction, which measures the contraction strength of the main heart pumping chamber, had recovered from approximately 25% to 60% (55-70% is normal).
One of Cecy’s first memories before waking up was hearing faint voices in her room and conversations between family members and staff. She remembers waking up to her husband who quickly explained that she had suffered a heart attack. Cecy remembers her surprise when she first heard the words “heart attack”.
Cecy was discharged three days later. She completed cardiac rehab and returned to her busy routine as a mother of three.
“Life is entertaining and tiring and everything all in one. But I look at those kids and I can’t imagine not being there for them.”
NPS - 624