A Dublin woman diagnosed with heart failure days after having her first baby, has turned her life around and urged other women to listen to their bodies.
Emma Connors, 35, from Clondalkin, had a healthy pregnancy, with gestational diabetes to manage but was overjoyed when she and her partner Chris welcomed their son JJ in February 2021.
After returning home from a traumatic hospital visit during which JJ was admitted with jaundice, her legs doubled in size and she woke up during the night feeling breathless.
“I was unsure if I should go to the hospital because I thought it might be COVID, but I felt that if I didn’t get to a hospital soon that very shortly, I wouldn’t be able to breathe at all,” said Emma.
“My partner brought me straight to the hospital, where I really struggled to walk to the door. I stopped and leaned up against a railing to catch my breath.
“When I entered the Emergency Department tent at the Mater Hospital, the triage nurse took my vitals, oxygen, blood pressure, and heart rate, all of which were alarming. The triage nurse immediately admitted me.
“Within 20 minutes I had a COVID-19 swab taken, a chest x-ray, and blood taken. The x-ray showed that I had fluid in my lungs which needed to be removed.
“The catheter removed over 8kgs in weight of fluid from my body over the five days I was in the hospital – I felt like a deflated balloon. I lost a further 8kg in fluid over the next few weeks.”
Later that day, Dr Emer Joyce, the heart consultant in the hospital, diagnosed legal secretary Emma with post-natal heart failure.
Emma relived her experience as part of the Irish Heart Foundation’s ‘Her Heart Matters’ campaign, which urges women to find the time to prioritise their heart health through small, sustainable lifestyle changes.
Following the diagnosis, Emma is keeping well and managing her condition. She has made changes to her lifestyle, including eating more oily fish, being more physically active, ensuring she takes her medication each day, weighing herself daily to monitor fluid gain, reducing salt and alcohol intake, and restricting her fluid intake to 1.5ltrs a day.
She emphasises that it is so important to take time for herself and enjoys getting outdoors for walks with JJ and the dog and socialising with friends.
“I thought I did all the research when I was pregnant, but I didn’t see anything about post-natal heart failure anywhere.
“It’s so important for women to listen to their bodies. I wrote off my breathlessness so many times, but my body was drowning in fluid.
“I feel so lucky to be able to return to normal life. Your heart does matter, look after it.”
The Irish Heart Foundation’s ‘Her Heart Matters’ campaign highlights that one in four women dies from heart disease and stroke.
For practical tips and support and further information about the campaign, visit irishheart.ie.