Special report: Heart attack or have her baby

Posted at 3:16 PM, May 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-04 11:35:30-04

Although congenital heart disease is often considered a childhood condition, advances in surgical treatment mean most babies who once died of congenital heart disease survive well into adulthood. But those can present new challenges. For one Nebraska woman, it meant the chance of having a heart attack or having a baby.

A baby is a blessing. No one may know that statement truer than Laura Kingston.

Kingston was born with a deformed heart. 10 years ago, she had her first baby.

"I can remember being home and the middle of the night. My son is crying, and I can't get to him to his room to get to the crib."

Her heart was failing. Doctors were able to replace her valve. She was ok. Life went on.

"As life has it, I ended up becoming pregnant again. That is when we noticed the transition of this valve."

All of a sudden, Laura, was back to where had been before. Her heart was struggling to keep up with the pregnancy. To complicate things more, Laura's unborn daughter wasn't growing. At 28 weeks, doctors put her on bed rest.

"It had gotten significantly worse," she said.

For the next two months, Nebraska Medicine was home. Doctors were on standby, afraid Laura's heart would stop.  They were assessing and reassessing her case and her daughter's.

"How is growth today and is baby meeting all the other parameters to be able to proceed with the pregnancy. Or do we need to talk about delivery now," recalled Dr. Teresa G. Berg, who managed Kingston's case. Berg is also the Director of Maternal Fetal Medicine and Nebraska Med.

The entire time, Kingstone said she never lost hope.

"This is a gift. This is a miracle. This is meant to be and the thought of termination wasn't an option," she said.

The program at Nebraska Medicine is almost as rare as the cases they deal with. Doctors have build a multidisciplinary program for adults with congenital heart disease. They were recently among the first select physicians ever to receive board certification in this sub-specialty. Doctors work between Nebraska Medicine and Children¹s Hospital seeing more than 1,000 congenital heart disease patients each year.

"They've got somebody who understands what it means to be an adult with these baby diseases," Dr. Berg said.

"There can be unforseen complications that can come up during the pregnancy, and we like to manage these women so that we're really preventing and doing everything to prevent these complications from coming up," said cardiologist Anji Yetman.

These maternal-fetal medicine specialists are following the passion project to under served areas too, including western parts of Nebraska and South Dakota.

As for Laura Kingston, she underwent a c-section at Nebraska Medicine on March 7 with a massive team was in the delivery room:cardiology, anesthesia,NICU, OB/GYN, on standby to work if her heart gave out. Good news is, they didn't have to. Kingston's daughter, Riley was born safely at 4 1/2 pounds. She now weighs over six pounds and is doing well.

"I am just so thankful, I am so thankful that she is healthy and that she is here."