My OHSU Heart Story – by Brittany

Brittany - OHSU Cardiology Patient StoryI was born with congenital heart disease. By the time I was 10 years old, I’d already had four surgeries. A few years ago, I learned I had an enlarged aorta and a narrowed pulmonary valve.

Then at 24, I got pregnant. That was pretty nerve-wracking.

I was concerned if my body  could handle the additional blood flow that came with pregnancy. I’ve been seeing Patty Woods at OHSU since I was 18, and she suggested I also meet with Dr. Luke Burchill, since he’s dealt with many other high-risk cardiac patients.

I was nervous to hear what he was going to say, because I’d been told before that I wouldn’t be able to have kids. But he explained to me that I was actually pretty “low on the high-risk spectrum.” He was so confident and supportive that it made me feel a lot better about my situation, because I really wanted to have children.

During my pregnancy, I was able to stay fairly active, though I did notice more shortness of breath than I normally would. At work I ended up cutting back, but just a little: I’m a  waitress, so more than four hours at a time on my feet got a little difficult.  I met with my team at OHSU every few weeks, then weekly during my third trimester. They kept a close eye on me, and assured me it was normal to be feeling how I did.

When my daughter, Lila, was born, I worried she would have similar heart problems, but she was healthy. During her delivery, we had a whole team of doctors in the room: cardiologists, OB-GYN, pediatricians. They all worked well together. I didn’t feel like there was any confusion; they all played their part. Dr. Emmanuelle Pare was my OB-GYN, and she was  amazing. Also, the whole group was so good at reassuring my family that everything would be okay. I appreciated the extra effort they made to comfort me and calm family members who felt wary or unsure.

Even 10 years ago, someone with my heart condition wouldn’t live as long, so as far as being pregnant there’s always some fear in the back of your mind. My team at OHSU made me feel a million times better about it.

When Lila is a year old, I will need another surgery to replace my enlarged aorta so it won’t be as much of a concern when I want to have more kids.

Because now I know I can.

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