Facing Heart Failure at 39
After giving birth to her first baby, Susan Edwards knew something was wrong. While caring for her newborn son, Logan, in their Brooklyn home, she noticed her feet were swelling and she was feeling dizzy.
Then, in the midst of those joyful moments of new motherhood, she fainted. When paramedics came, they rushed her to NYC Health + Hospital/Kings County Emergency Room where doctors discovered her blood pressure had skyrocketed and her weakened heart was barely pumping blood to her body.
Her ejection fraction, a critical measure of how well the heart pumps blood, was only 10 percent. Normal Ejection Fraction is 55 percent to 70 percent. Doctors diagnosed her with congestive heart failure caused by high blood pressure, stress, and being overweight.
“They said my lungs were filled with fluid and I had congestive heart failure,” Edwards recalled. “And I thought to myself, ‘I’m about to die.’ ”
Susan Edwards with Dr. Suzette Graham-Hill of NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County
At NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County, Edwards was treated by Cardiology Physician Specialist, Dr. Suzette Graham-Hill who prescribed cardioprotective medications and monitored her closely. Edwards was hospitalized for several days, then after being discharged, she followed up with Dr. Graham-Hill in the Kings County Heart Health Center.
“Susan was seriously obese with high blood pressure,” said Dr. Graham-Hill. “When you add on to it being post-partum, then you really have the recipe for heart failure.”
Heart Failure is a serious condition that happens when the heart cannot pump enough blood to the body. In New York City, heart disease and stroke are leading causes of death for both women and men.
Responding to the need for better heart care in Brooklyn, NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County launched the Heart Health Center, a walk-in facility with comprehensive services for heart failure patients.
Dr. Graham-Hill, an attending physician at the Heart Health Center, said she develops a close relationship with all her heart failure patients. But, Edwards’ case demanded extra attention. In addition to her heart problems, Edwards had lost her job and was battling depression. Dr. Graham-Hill also referred her to a social worker to help manage those issues.
“I remember spending a lot of time with Susan because I knew she just needed someone in her corner,” said Dr. Graham-Hill. “You have to just see past all the problems to what the potential of the person is.”
“If you see her now, you would never know what she went through,” she said.
With each follow-up appointment, the friendship between Edwards and Dr. Graham-Hill grew. Edwards appreciated how the doctor explained her heart condition and steps to treat it.
“She walked me through the process, step by step. But, she didn’t speak to me like a doctor,” Edwards said. “To me, I saw her like an aunt. She became my family.”
Under Dr. Graham-Hill’s care and with treatment and medication, Susan is a new woman, unrecognizable from the person who collapsed in her apartment. She lost nearly 100 pounds by changing her diet and eating healthier foods. Her blood pressure is down to normal range of 125/80 and her ejection fraction is at 50%.
“The care here is amazing,” she said. “I can truly say that they completely changed my life.”
The Heart Health Center at NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County is open Monday – Friday, from 8am to 5pm. For appointments, call 718-245-7388.