Lindsay Staloff-Peterson has looked death in the face and said no thank you not once, not twice, but on three separate occasions. Now, Lindsay is on a mission to save other women from her fate and the preventable consequences that come with a peripartum cardiomyopathy diagnosis. Here is part one of Lindsay’s story.
On August 18, 2016, I gave birth to my son, Liam Jax. The arrival of my son brought me so much joy after a tough pregnancy. Starting from about four months pregnant I knew something didn’t feel right.
Throughout my pregnancy, I gained over 90lbs. Each week I was adding on 5lbs in fluid but my doctors told me it was normal. I was incredibly swollen and could barely move. After being a very healthy and physically active person, I found I couldn’t walk up to my driveway. When faced with stairs, I had to resort to crawling up on my hands and knees. Where was the healthy active woman who enjoyed hiking, dancing, and yoga? Reduced to a sedentary life as I continued to swell.
Every muscle in my body felt tight. I’d planned a mural for my son’s room that I had been excited to paint but my body made what should have been a joyous memory, a complete struggle. I was unable to stand for more than ten minutes at a time or my feet would double in size. That mural took over six months to complete.
I went to twelve OBGYN birthing professionals in the East and West Tower at the best hospital in Beverly Hills trying to figure what was wrong with me. I tried to be an advocate for myself but they classified my symptoms as normal and my concerns fell on deaf ears. At each visit, all of the concern was always placed on the baby. Checking the baby’s brain, checking the baby’s heart, I get it, I wanted to ensure my child was healthy too but they forgot me. All I was to these people was a vessel for bringing this child into the world and they were not concerned with my well-being. They were my birthing professionals, however, and this was my first child so what do I know? I could hardly think straight as my health continued to deteriorate but I kept going because they said I was fine.
Liam had finally arrived and I was sure I would be feeling better since my medical team had continuously told me my symptoms were normal. Unfortunately, after his birth, my condition only worsened. Following my son’s birth, I went to my medical team weekly letting them know I was not getting better. Still, nothing was done.
We had decided that we wanted to spend Liam’s first Thanksgiving with family in Arizona but was I was still concerned with my health. I had a 104-degree fever and I couldn’t breathe. Just days before we left, I went back to the hospital for help. At this point, my brain was becoming hazy from what I now assume with my heart not pumping properly and leading to an insufficient oxygen level to my brain. I felt like a zombie. My memories from that day come back in flashes – a red-lipped nurse with a needle the length of my forearm, an IV despite me being so swollen I felt I may burst. The medical team diagnosed me with a urinary tract infection and told me to have a nice Thanksgiving.
Some of my last memories are packing for our trip. I was so swollen I couldn’t put my socks on by myself and I had absolutely no motivation. Despite how I felt, I wouldn’t ruin Liam’s first Thanksgiving. The hospital said I was fine, I just needed to push through.
My mind is in blackout from this point. I don’t remember the drive to Arizona. What did I eat? What did we do? There is a picture of me by the poolside holding Liam with a huge grin on my face. I was dying, how could I be smiling? Although I wonder this now, I actually know the truth. Faking health and happiness after months of sickness had become second nature. I didn’t want my family to worry about me and I wanted to be strong for Liam.
While my husband’s family went out to see Christmas lights, we stayed behind. Despite having slept all day, I still felt too weak to leave the house. While my baby and I slept in the bedroom, my husband sat in the living room watching TV. Suddenly, he heard strange, loud noises coming from the bedroom. He rushed in to find me seizing on the bed.
Immediately my hero husband started performing CPR. In his rush to assist me, he accidentally started a video recording on his phone. In the video I can see my baby as I hear my husband screaming my name in the background, begging me to wake up as I lay unresponsive. My heart had stopped.
Check the rest of Lindsay’s amazing story of survival in part 2 of her story.
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