The morning Noelle Priolo woke up before giving birth to her daughter, she had some worries that stretched beyond the normal nervousness.
“I found myself telling my husband how I want my daughter to be raised if I don’t make it through childbirth,” said Noelle Priolo.
During the last few weeks of her pregnancy, Noelle’s body had been giving signs that something wasn’t right.
“I did go to the E.R. three times, I was extremely hypertensive, my resting pulse was way too high, I was very swollen, I was gaining four to five pounds a week,” said Priolo.
And after successfully giving birth to her healthy daughter, her fears became real.
“By the time I got into the recovery room, I went unconscious, my blood pressure bottomed out, I stopped breathing, I turned blue, and they had to pump me full of additional fluids to resuscitate me and bring me back,” said Priolo.
After countless trips to the hospital, Noelle was diagnosed with peripartum cardiomyopathy or PPCM, a rare form of heart disease that can only affect women.
“PPCM is heart failure that occurs in women who are actually nearly the end of their pregnancy or women with heart failure just a couple months after they deliver a baby,” said Dr. Jane Luu, Cardiologist with the DuPage Medical Group.
PPCM only affects about one in 3,000 pregnant women, causing the heart to become weakened and enlarged making it harder to pump blood throughout the body.
The disease can strike anyone, but women more at risk include those over 30, with preeclampsia, and high toxin exposure. The symptoms can be easily confused with normal pregnancy side effects.
“Women will feel shortness of breath, more fatigue, swelling in both of their legs and usually in their legs, that’s usually where the swelling starts,” said Dr. Luu.
For Noelle, her recovery started by eating healthier, exercising more and taking medications that were able to strengthen her heart back to normal. But if not caught right away, this disease can be deadly.
That’s why she decided it was time to take action. She teamed up with Go Red for Women, and completed her first American Heart Association Heart Walk, not only to be more heart healthy, but to raise awareness about the disease, using her story to help others.
“That’s what inspired us to do our first annual American Heart Association Heart Walk. I just decided that it was a celebration in life and I was doing so fantastic that I wanted to give back,” said Priolo.
Four and a half years later, Noelle continues to grow healthier every day, and is able to share the story with her daughter.
“Celebration of life for me and Gianna,” said Priolo. “I want to raise her to give back and knowing that she’s a part of the bigger picture.”
A picture that will go on to include her mother.
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