Nicolette Somers is one strong momma. Nicolette was overjoyed with the arrival of her first child but soon after his birth, she started experiencing strange symptoms. While she should have been celebrating all of her new baby’s first holidays, Nicolette was alone in a hospital having tests ran on her heart. Ultimately, she would have to face a major life-altering procedure in the middle of a pandemic. Here is Nicolette’s story.
My name is Nicolette, I’m 29 years old and I am a PPCM survivor.
In November 2019, my husband and I found out we were expecting our first child and we couldn’t be more excited. I was so ready to be a mom and experience the joys of pregnancy. My whole pregnancy was great. Aside from a few days of morning sickness, I didn’t have any complications during my pregnancy: no high blood pressure, no gestational diabetes, no preeclampsia.
With us both furloughed from work due to COVID-19, I enjoyed spending time with my husband and watching my bump grow. On July 23rd my water started to leak so we headed to the hospital to be induced. Nineteen hours of labor and twenty minutes of pushing later, my son finally made his arrival on July 24, 2020. We were so in love and couldn’t wait to be home as a family.
By the end of my first month postpartum, I noticed I was extremely fatigued. Deep down I felt like I was more tired than I should have been. It was a different kind of fatigue. I wasn’t just sleep-deprived, but I had no energy to do anything. Everyone kept saying “you have a newborn, of course, it’s exhausting”, so I ignored it.
A couple of weeks later I noticed my weight had increased plus I had a swollen face and legs. I didn’t change anything in my eating habits and I was going for walks so I was a little confused. I just assumed it would go away if I ate healthier so I ignored it. Around the same time, I was starting to have difficulty breathing with tasks. I couldn’t stand for too long, do the dishes, pick up my son, or go up the stairs without needing to catch my breath. This started to worry me, but I thought maybe I was getting asthma or something else. My heart never crossed my mind.
Eventually, it got to a point that I couldn’t breathe when I was just sitting and resting so I decided to go to the ER. They took a chest X-ray and saw that I had fluid in my lungs and an enlarged heart. They immediately admitted me to see the cardiologists the next day. In October 2020 the hospitals in my area were allowing one visitor a day due to COVID. Fortunately, my husband was able to be with me when I received the official diagnosis of peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM). We were both in shock but we had each other to lean on.
At my first follow up with my cardiologist, he changed my medications but a few days later I ended up in the ER again due to trouble breathing. The doctor sent me home the same day with some Lasix. This didn’t feel right, my gut told me I needed a better doctor. In November 2020, I changed cardiologists. At my first appointment, she didn’t like my symptoms and had me admitted to the hospital for more tests.
My echocardiogram showed a decreased EF from October. The doctors transferred me to a different hospital for a more intense cardiac rehab and transplant evaluation. By then, COVID cases had increased so I was alone in the hospital when I heard this news. It was very difficult and scary to hear the word ‘transplant’. On top of this, I had to call my husband and my parents to tell them the news instead of having them with me for support.
That night I transferred to the new hospital where I ended up spending twelve days. I was going through a lot of testing, unable to have any visitors, and I missed my son’s first Thanksgiving. Eventually, the medical team decided to add me to the heart transplant list. The doctors then had to decide if I should wait in the hospital or if I would be allowed to go home. While keeping me closely monitored, the doctors agreed to allow me to go home. Happiness flooded me to see my husband and son again. I was so grateful to be able to spend time with my family before ending up in the hospital again.
Nine days later, I received a call that a heart was available. It was truly my Christmas miracle. It was a complete shock to me, my family, and the doctors to have received a heart that quickly, especially while waiting at home. This new heart was truly meant to be mine. On December 20, 2020, I had my heart transplant surgery. After the surgery, the surgeon told me they ran a couple more tests on my old heart and said I “didn’t have a lot of mileage left”. Those words were very scary to hear but just made me more grateful for my donor.
This time around I was in the hospital for three weeks. I was still unable to have any visitors, healing after a major surgery alone, and missing my son’s first Christmas and New Year. It was the longest and hardest three weeks of my life, but I knew it meant I would be around for a lot longer. This whole entire experience has been tough mentally and physically. Those three weeks post-transplant in the hospital, however, were extremely hard. Not being able to see my family or hold my son took a big toll on me mentally.
I am currently 7 weeks post-surgery and healing at home with my family. I have a long road of recovery ahead of me, but I plan to bring as much awareness to PPCM as I can while living my life to the fullest.