Heart Stories – Starlyn Lanier

Starlyn, a young mother at just nineteen years old, knew her chest pains and shortness of breath were not right. When she went for help, she found her concerns dismissed due to her young age. Luckily, one nurse listened and pushed to find the cause. Here is Starlyn’s story.

Seven weeks after the birth of my son on July 24, 2017, I started experiencing chest pains. I knew something was wrong and immediately went to the emergency room. I tried to explain to them the severity of my symptoms but, at nineteen years old, I felt like they dismissed my concerns. They told me my symptoms were normal. The doctor sent me home with gas relief medication and told me to follow up with my primary care physician.

A week later I still wasn’t feeling well when woke up unable to breathe and laying in a puddle of sweat. I knew this wasn’t right and called my dad so he could drive me to the ER. When I arrived, a nurse who had been there the week before remembered me and asked why I was back. I told her how something was wrong and I couldn’t breathe. She immediately jumped into action and demanded I get a full workup. I don’t know her name but I am so thankful for the care this nurse gave me. She was my voice when I felt I couldn’t have one for myself. Her persistence in getting me heard and properly cared for may have saved my life.

After my X-ray was reviewed, it was found that my heart was enlarged. The next step was to get an echocardiogram to find my ejection fraction which shows how well my heart is functioning. The test showed that my heart ejection fraction was 20-25%. In a flash, I went from one nurse to four doctors and three nurses.

When my medical team came in to tell me what was happening, I felt very confused and overwhelmed. I needed someone with me who could help me navigate this news. Luckily, I was able to call my dad and he came in as they continued detailing what they had discovered. I was diagnosed with postpartum cardiomyopathy – pregnancy-induced heart failure.

After eight days in the hospital, I went home with seven new medications and an external defibrillator called a LifeVest. I had the Life Vest for eight months while I tried everything I could to get better. When I went in for my follow-up echocardiogram, however, my ejection fraction had decreased to 15-20%. I continued using the LifeVest until my cardiologist finally decided to implant an internal defibrillator (ICD) on April 23, 2018.

My life changed drastically after the ICD. I felt so much weaker and was unable to care for my son the way I previously had. Although I no longer felt like the person I had once been, I continued to push. This would not be the end of my story.

In February 2020, I began seeing a transplant surgeon and this could possibly be an option for my future. Although it has been a tough ride, for now, I am managing my health with the medications my team has adjusted to fit my lifestyle. I’m going on four years since my diagnosis but I am hopeful for many more years to come.

In the end, I wouldn’t change a thing because I know God has a purpose for me. He gives his toughest battle to his strongest soldiers.

I support the PPCM Fund Inc. and Let’sTalkPPCM.

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