Survivor Feature: Meet Ciara

Childbearing is truly one of the greatest gifts in the world. That joyous moment when you hold a child for the first time, hear their first words or see their first smile is truly an indescribable feeling. Sometimes, unfortunately the gift of childbirth comes with some complications. For some women pregnancy can lead to Peripartum Cardiomyopathy also referred to as PPCM.

Our Survivor Feature, Ciara, has a testimony with PPCM that we believe everyone needs to read.

Tell us who you are:

I'm Ciara Kelly from Portsmouth, Virginia. Personal chef and Mommy to two littles. Currently fighting to recover from Peripartum Cardiomyopathy, a rare heart failure occurring during the final month of pregnancy or shortly after delivery. While there is no cure, I can still go on to live a full life while in recovery.

What is your testimony?

I used to wonder why I was going through this. Why me? I'm still young, how can this happen. This journey is for the women who have suffered so many losses. I was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) at 18 right after I had my daughter. I had the crazy struggles with hormones and the infertility issues for years to come. I even had to have a Fallopian tube removed because of it.

Having another child was all but out of the question and I had to come to terms with that. Right before my 30th birthday, I delivered my son. I was unresponsive, but thank God I was revived. I woke up to learn that he was in the NICU because he suffered some pretty rough trauma at birth. He would go on to spend 45 days fighting to be here to go home with us. A few days after going home, I felt this pressure in my chest. I couldn't sleep. I went to the ER, and they told me I was having a panic attack, My husband and I returned home so that I could get some rest. Later that night, I felt like someone was sitting on my chest. The pain of laying down got to be too much.

He took me to a different ER and this time the doctor on the shift knew exactly what was going on with me. He did an ultrasound of my heart and sure enough I had Peripartum Cardiomyopathy (PPCM). He said the pain was from fluid in my lungs. I had to be transferred to a bigger hospital where I would spend the next 4 days draining fluid and getting well enough to go home. I was equipped with a LifeVest and lots of medication. I think I cried everyday because I was so confused and lost.

I found a support group and was able to seek therapy to help cope with everything going on. Through this whole thing, I've found a new purpose. I am a natural giver and want to inform and educate anyone who will listen. Peripartum Cardiomyopathy can be caught and strengthen the chances of recovery.

What has been your biggest lesson?

My biggest lesson in this is to never give up on myself. I spent many months wanting to just lay down and die. Your whole life comes into focus and what you would potentially leave behind. After having my stroke and coming out still able, I made a point to never fail myself again. I have much more life to live and if PPCM is going to take me out, it's going to have to come harder. I'm fighting back with no gloves.

What advice would you give someone going through a similar situation?

Breathe. Time to assemble your medical team. If a doctor isn't helping you to work through your condition, find another. There is recovery. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. It's important to have knowledgeable caregivers and to advocate for yourself.

What is your favorite quote/affirmation and why?

"...and here you are living despite it all." Rupi Kaur

This is my favorite quote because it keeps me grounded. I'm still here and still able. That's all I need.

How are you serving others?

Educating expecting moms and working with local medical practices on screening and being up to date with information.

How can readers connect with you?

You can connect with me on Instagram and Youtube at CiaraCanCook

Share any resources that could be beneficial to readers.

Pretty Lane encourages all of our readers that are/plan to be expecting mothers to learn risk factors early on.

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