Patient Amy Cooper
“I had just given birth and got a surprising diagnosis – heart failure.”
It should have been one of the best times in her life, but Amy Cooper felt terrible.
Six weeks after Jackson and Benjamin were born, Amy started going downhill. The list of symptoms grew: fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, high blood pressure, and a feeling of fullness. Back at work, she could barely walk down the hall.
The Diagnosis – Peripartum Cardiomyopathy
Finally and tearfully Amy went to the emergency department, where a scan revealed an enlarged heart. She was suffering from peripartum cardiomyopathy and was admitted to Wake Forest Baptist Health.
Peripartum cardiomyopathy is a rare disorder typically diagnosed within the last month of pregnancy or within five months after childbirth. The heart is damaged and cannot pump blood efficiently, which affects other parts of the body such as the lungs.
Dr. Vinay Thohan, medical director of the Advanced Cardiac Care and Heart Transplant Program, said that Amy had only 15 to 20 percent function in her heart when she entered the hospital.
“An echocardiogram (ECHO), a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan and a heart biopsy gave us a detailed look at the structure function and tissue features of Amy's heart,” Dr. Thohan said.
“This information helps us correctly diagnose the cause of the congestive heart failure, whether it is viral or from some other source. What surprises people is that many changes in the heart can be reversed.”
Today Amy Has Normal Heart Function And An Active Life
Amy’s treatment included taking diuretics, blood thinners, potassium and magnesium, as well as beta blockers and ace inhibitors. She remains on the beta blockers and ace inhibitors.
“I like to wait a full year after patients have recovered before cautiously taking them off the medicines one at a time,” Dr. Thohan said.
Amy’s life has changed dramatically. She lost 63 pounds, including 18 pounds of fluid. She works full-time and now serves on the organizing committee for the Heart and Stroke Walk for Wilkes County.
“I eat ‘heart healthy’ and I exercise,” she said. “I feel fabulous, the best I’ve felt in years.”