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Peripartum cardiomyopathy: Three Triangle women came close to death while giving birth

November 1, 2017 GMT

Having a baby can put a lot of stress on the body, and in some rare instances healthy pregnant women can develop a little-known heart condition that can be fatal.

Not many people know about peripartum cardiomyopathy, or PPCM, but three local mothers say they are the lucky ones after being diagnosed with the condition.

Lyndsay Thomas, Candy Ridott, and Erika Hess are three local women who are leading the charge and started a Facebook page called PPCM Survivors in NC to rally together for more research and for survivors to lean on each other. They call themselves a group of Heart Sisters because they truly are sisters in the fight. Candy has begun doing local talks about the condition and women’s heart disease and the three just launched a Heart Walk team in honor of their PPCM Heart Sisters.

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The women survived a type of heart failure that only happens right around the time of giving birth and they are trying to raise awareness so other expectant mothers can take precautions. The three women have formed a group called Heart Sisters and walked together during the recent Triangle Heart Walk.

The women did not know each other before they all experienced a traumatic, near-death experience while giving birth.

Lyndsay Thomas said she knows she could have died while giving birth and is grateful that she gets to see her child grow up.

“It breaks my heart every day knowing I wouldn’t be able to see them grow up but I am so lucky that even being 2 ½ and being wild and crazy I get to experience that and I get to be their mommy.”

Erika Hess was giving birth via a C-section when things took a turn for the worse.

“I died twice on the table,” she said.

“They sent me up to the ICU and they didn’t tell me anything,” she recalls. “They just said you’re here because your heart is damaged.”

At one of the happiest times of their lives, the three women almost died right around the time they gave birth. Their hearts failed in a condition known as peripartum cardiomyopathy or PPCM.<br /> <br /> “I didn’t know what it was until I was in the ER,” Thomas said. “I could not breathe at all.”

“I would not still be here,” said Candy Ridoutt. “I would not have made it if I had not already been in the hospital. They said I would have never made it to the hospital. I would have lost consciousness and that would have been it.”

None of the women had any heart issues before becoming pregnant.

Thomas said she felt healthy during her pregnancy and even ran, while carrying twins, during her first trimester.

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“It was extremely scary,” she said. “Being a first-time parent and having newborn twins at home is scary enough (but) laying in the ICU, I did not know if I would ever see them again.”

Often the symptoms of PPCM are brushed aside as pregnancy side effects.

“I had the high blood pressure and then I had the swelling, which all that is normal,” Ridoutt said. “But once it starts affecting the heart, it’s no longer normal.”

Said Thomas: “The biggest thing is I showed signs for a long time and it wasn’t caught until I was really struggling and really in trouble.”

The three women are hoping to get the word out about their experience.

“The biggest message is to take these things seriously,” Ridout said. “Everybody chalks it up to ‘Oh, she’s pregnant,’ or oh she’s hormonal. No, sometimes there’s a little more.”

“We don’t want to scare pregnant moms,” Hess said. “We just want them to know this can happen to you.”

Medical experts say if caught, PPCM is treatable.

Some of the most common symptoms include shortness of breath, a racing heart and swelling in the feet and legs. Doctors say a blood test can raise a red flag