WEDNESDAY, Aug. 2, 2023 (American Heart Association News) — Yanella Vickers has loved babies and the medical field since she was a child. Her dream was to go to obstetrics and gynecology.
Instead, Yanella closely observed the profession as a patient. In June 2007, she was 18 months pregnant and she was 5 months when she walked across the stage to receive her high school diploma.
Over the past two months, Yanella has been feeling extremely tired and having difficulty getting out of bed. Still, she dragged herself into class.
Her abdomen grew at an unusual rate and was often painful. her leg was swollen. She developed high blood pressure and had frequent shortness of breath.
She saw her doctor regularly, but felt neglected because she was young and Hispanic. Every time her problem seemed alarming, her boyfriend took her to her emergency room. Those doctors also explained that her symptoms were normal during her pregnancy.
During her second trimester, Yanella developed migraine headaches and began fainting regularly.
Later in her pregnancy, and during an ER visit, she was taken to the antenatal triage unit. After her ultrasound, she was told to report to her doctor the next day.
“Your baby has hydrops fetalis,” the doctor told her.
This disease causes swelling due to the accumulation of fluid in the baby’s tissues and organs. The fluid then entered Yanella’s womb and backed up into her lungs, straining her heart.
“The baby probably won’t survive,” the doctor said.
Yanella was transferred to a high-risk pregnancy ward for further tests and then sent home.
That night she and her partner returned to the ER. Her chest was so tight that she could not breathe. She was said to be in heart failure.
The next day she gave birth to a baby girl.
Medications kept Yanella’s heart beating, but the baby was on a ventilator, pumping fluid from her abdominal cavity.
Yanella entered the room in a wheelchair to see her daughter, Alena. A priest was present. Yanella requested that the resuscitation cease. Alena died soon afterward.
Doctors told Yanella that she would have to live with cardiomyopathy for the rest of her life. Heart muscle disease makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood to other parts of the body.
They said her pregnancy likely triggered the illness. Later, she discovered that her family on her mother’s side had problems with her heart.
“I couldn’t believe everything that happened to me in eight months,” Yanella said. “I never thought I would be dealt cards like that. I was young and naive.”
Yanella never intended to have a family at such a young age, but the loss of her first child was heartbreaking.
Against the wishes of doctors and under strict medical supervision, Yanella started a family. She gave birth to her daughter in 2009 and a son the following year.
Yanella’s heart has grown stronger, but she still gets tired quickly. She can walk fast, but she can’t run. She can ride a bike, but she can’t overdo it. She wears elastic stockings to reduce swelling.
She met her husband, Horace Vickers, ten years ago. He fathers her children from an early age.
Yanella, now 34, lives in Port St. Lucie, Florida and works in early childhood education. In the last year, inspired by her heart problems and the medical challenges her mother faced, she became a certified paramedic and paramedic. She hasn’t decided how to use the skill.
“Through that training, I was able to see a lot of health disparities,” she said. “I saw the fragility of humankind from a different perspective.I also felt a new level of humility towards the medical field and medical workers.”
Yanella often speaks at American Heart Association events about maternal health and living with heart disease. She, Horace, and her children, along with her friends and family, also participate in the AHA’s Palm Beach Her County Her Heart Her Walk each year.
Horace is a police officer who helps set up a basic life support program for the department. Designed to train first responders before medical personnel arrive. Considering everything Yanella has been through, he knows how valuable those skills are.
“Yanella puts love into everything she does,” Horace said. “She calls it ‘the work of her heart.’ Her strength and passion define who she is. I can relate to a lot of people.”
american heart association news Covers heart and brain health. Not all views expressed in this article reflect the official position of the American Heart Association. Copyright is owned or held by the American Heart Association, Inc. All rights reserved.
By Diane Daniel, American Heart Association News