Less than a week after giving birth to twin boys, Erin Borland was transported back to the hospital by ambulance and woke up the following morning in the critical care unit. Her diagnosis was a rare form of heart failure called Peripartum Cardiomyopathy or PPCM for short. She would soon learn her ejection fraction was only 35 percent where a normal range is typically 60 to 80 percent. It was in CCU that she learned she was in heart failure and would not be able to have any more children.
“It was pretty scary because I had the emergency C-section with the twins on one Thursday and then the next Thursday I was having a heart cath,” Borland said. “After having a baby you’re already emotional anyway but with this news, I just broke down in tears.”
Borland, who had preeclampsia before the twins were born, was on bed rest leading up to the arrival of her boys at 35 weeks. There was no indication however of a potential heart condition leading up to the twins’ birth.
“They were born on Feb. 25, 2016, which was a Thursday. That Saturday my blood pressure went back up and they put me back on blood pressure medicine. I woke up with a wet cough on Sunday while I was still admitted and waiting to hold my son,” Borland said of the days leading up to her diagnosis. “When I was discharged, my cough just kept getting worse and worse and worse. At 9 p.m. I was on the couch in tears and I just knew something was wrong.”
That night her husband Sean called the nurses line, but by the time Erin had gotten dressed to go to the hospital, he had to call 911 as Erin simply couldn’t breathe. At that point, she was transported by ambulance, where she had an EKG and was given nitroglycerine.
“My doctor said it can happen very fast and it is very dramatic,” Borland explained. “You just don’t think about the fact that you can get pregnant and somehow end up in heart failure. It’s an extremely rare heart issue.”
Borland explained that only half of the women that are diagnosed with PPCM will recover. Some live with a low ejection fraction the rest of their lives and some end up on a transplant list or even die as a result of PPCM. Borland considers herself extremely fortunate to have recovered from such a rarity.
“It’s been almost a year to date now that I have been off my heart medication and I’ve made a full recovery,” Borland said. “Some people will never recover. I feel very blessed.”
Borland was very thankful for her husband’s quick response to her medical needs, the EMS team, the healthcare professionals at Owensboro Health Regional Hospital and her families support throughout the whole ordeal. Having just given birth and then a medical emergency complicate the care, she was particularly thankful for those that went out of their way to care for all the details involved.
“During that entire time too I was wanting to breastfeed. What was really amazing to me was there was a pharmacist who had just had a baby too and was breastfeeding and she was really looking out for me when finding a medicine I could take because what the doctor originally prescribed I couldn’t take when breastfeeding,” Borland said. “I was very lucky there was a pharmacist that was thinking along those lines.”
Borland hopes that one day they will hopefully find out what causes PPCM and who’s at risk for it. Her family shares their story in hopes of bringing awareness to heart-related issues.