Personal Stories: Cindy Pritchett

In November 1993, my husband proposed to me. In January, 1994 we were pregnant. In June, 1994 we got married and moved to Maryland. I was 27. I took a job marking the MSPAP tests and finished the last week in August to prepare for my baby-due October 4th. While cleaning I fell and wound up having my beautiful girl on September 2nd (Labor Day). I had been diagnosed with a heart murmur while I was in college and was given extra fluid antibiotics during delivery. My epidural ran out-half way through the labor (24 hours) and I remember screaming and cursing at the nurses about the pain I was in. Little did I know that on top of labor pains I was experiencing my aortic dissection and a total "blowing out" of my aortic valve. My daughter who was 5 weeks premature stayed in the hospital and I was released, but I had to go back to the hospital every 2 hours for feeding. I remember wondering why instead of losing weight after delivery, I seemed to be gaining (later I found out that this was fluid). I was tired, looked awful and had terrible pain in my back. I had to sleep sitting up. I had a hard time breathing and was coughing a lot. My husband called the hospital who told him to make me drink water and if he brought me back-it would not be covered by our insurance. I reached a point where I could not breathe and could not talk from coughing, and he took me back. I remember standing in front of the hospital using all my concentration to get as much air as I could. I was in congestive heart failure-one step away from a ventilator with 64% oxygen. I remember everyone moving out of my way in the emergency room- I must have looked awful and I don't remember much after that.

I woke up and was told that I was being flown to Johns Hopkins. My baby would be cared for by my mother (oh, and by the way, could you use this breast milk pump before you go?) I refused of course because I had no idea what drugs they had given me. Anyway, when I got to Johns Hopkins I was told that I had to stay there for six weeks for my aorta to stabilize (it was still soft from childbirth) I was on morphine back and forth between floors and tests, MRI's catheritization, all kinds of x-rays my fairy was there-thank God for the Ronald McDonald house. My husband was going nuts and I was not able to see my new daughter for weeks. They wound up flying her to Hopkins where she stayed in the NIC-U. She wasn't able to eat, they had to feed her with a tube and she also had an open PDA (common for preemie's)

My aortic dissection was extreme-ascending and descending and my aortic valve was replaced with a St.Jude's valve. A surgeon was flown in from Germany because I am so small (4'11, 114 lbs-at the time) that they wanted someone with experience in pediatric cardiac surgery. They could not fix everything at once, so they left the descending aneurysm and created an "elephant trunk" in case they had to complete the surgery later.

I just got back from my cardiologist appointment and I am told that there is a chance that I will need surgery again. It seems that My ascending aorta has gone from 4.1 mm to 5.6 mm. At least that's what they think per CT scan. I meet with the cardiac surgeon to discuss options and details in two weeks. Please-wish me luck.

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