Heart Stories – Kyla Davis Pt. 1

Kyla thought she knew what to expect during her third pregnancy. Unfortunately, a heart condition she had never heard of would come crashing into her life shortly after her son’s birth. Check out part one of Kyla’s amazing story.

My name is Kyla Davis and I am a heart failure survivor. I am a wife to an amazing husband of 21 years who is also my high school sweetheart. I am a mom to 3 beautiful, quirky, fun children who keep me on my toes and going each day. My family is the reason I fought to live and now fight daily to live a good life. 

My PPCM journey began in February of 2017. At 37 years old, I went into heart failure with my third baby. Peripartum cardiomyopathy, also known as PPCM, is a pregnancy-induced heart failure.  

About 5 weeks postpartum, I started having symptoms that were not common for me postpartum; shortness of breath, chest pain and crackling sounds in my lungs when lying down, and weakness in my legs with some swelling. When I went to the doctor they had tests run. I was told it was dehydration, exhaustion from having the third baby, and anxiety. Within 24 hours, despite abnormalities found in my chest X-ray, EKG, and bloodwork, they ruled out the possibility of a heart issue. I received this diagnosis without a referral to a cardiologist or the ER.  

My condition got progressively worse over the next 4 weeks.  I was hardly able to eat or drink for over 10 days but I was swelling from head to toe. The “anxiety attacks” where I felt like I couldn’t breathe and needed an inhaler lasted 2-3 hours at a time. I couldn’t sleep for days on end and the fatigue was immeasurable. I was basically dying at home and no one knew. Doctors kept dismissing everything as postpartum anxiety even with the worsening symptoms.  

I was finally at the point that I couldn’t keep going, basically nonfunctional, and went to the doctor again. This time there was additional bloodwork. This was a Friday late morning, so results didn’t come in until Monday.  When the results were in, they told me to immediately see my primary doctors due to my alarming numbers. With the bloodwork in hand, my mom took me to my primary doctor. After reviewing the values, the doctor sent me straight to the ER.

At this point, I couldn’t even walk anymore because I was in so much pain and so swollen. When I got to the ER, they began running tests and attempting to treat what they thought was wrong with me. It took the hospital over 24 hours to actually diagnose me with PPCM.  Again, they assumed it was something else; I didn’t fit the stereotype of a heart failure patient!! They had no idea it was my heart the entire time they treated me.   

After diagnosis, I was immediately care flighted to a heart hospital 2 hours away and put in the cardiac ICU. My organs were beginning to fail (liver, kidneys, lungs were full of fluid and failing), my heart function called ejection fraction (EF), was at less than 10% and I was basically in cardiogenic shock.

Once I got to Lubbock, they worked diligently to save my life, regain organ function, drain my lungs, remove the fluid off my body, and stabilize my heart. The hope was that they could get the swelling/fluid off my body and out of my lungs and then give me medications to help restore my heart. Unfortunately, my blood pressure was too low and my heart too weak for any medicinal treatment. I was in Lubbock 10 days and they were able to stabilize me enough to fly by jet to Dallas, TX (6 hours away) to a larger, more experienced heart transplant hospital.   

Once arriving in Dallas, I spent another 10 days in the cardiac ICU where Baylor UMC continued stabilizing me and working to get my body and heart as strong as possible. The only option left to save my life was open-heart surgery. No other medical treatments were working. It became an emergency open-heart surgery to place an LVAD – left ventricle assistive device (basically a mechanical heart) in the left ventricle of my heart. This would allow the heart to rest while the pump is pulling the blood through my heart and getting it to the rest of my body.  

The surgery went very well and my body responded well to the LVAD. I am a walking miracle. It is a miracle that I survived those days leading up to my diagnosis, a miracle that I was able to be stabilized in Lubbock, a miracle that I was stable enough to endure open-heart surgery, and a miracle to live life again with my family!  I am thankful for this second chance at life through amazing doctors, technology, and miracles. 

My story isn’t over yet, stay tuned for part 2…

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