Lawrence resident Becca Booth received a standing ovation and big hug after sharing how she had been affected by heart disease nearly seven years ago.
Booth was there to help increase awareness about how heart disease — the No. 1 killer of women — can strike at any time.
“We think of heart disease as an old woman’s disease — something that happens to your grandmothers or your great-grandmothers, but I was 26. It comes in all shapes and sizes."
For Booth, it showed up during the prime of her life when she was pregnant with her first child.
Like many expectant moms, she worried about labor, stretch marks and weight gain. She also suffered morning sickness.
But, in the second trimester, she started having blood pressure issues — something she hadn’t had before. She was placed on bed rest. Then, her body began to swell.
“My legs were two to three times the size of normal; even my nose was swollen,” she said.
At 30 weeks, Booth said she woke up and felt as if someone was sitting on her chest.
“The pressure was so intense, that it scared me. So, my husband took me to the hospital,” she said.
Her blood work came back OK, so doctors continued to monitor Booth as her problems seemed to worsen. She said she had trouble catching her breath when she walked across a room.
At 35 weeks, she was rushed to the hospital because her blood pressure was “out of control.” Booth remembers the nurses hovering over her and people whispering and looking at her charts.
“I tried to ignore it all, but at the same time I could tell it was getting worse. My heart felt like it was racing in my chest,” she said.
Booth had an emergency Cesarean section and her daughter, Scout, was born weighing 6 pounds, 5 ounces.
“She was beautiful with a head full of hair,” she said.
After giving birth, Booth continued to have blood pressure problems and trouble breathing. She was back in the hospital just three days after being released.
“I knew I was in trouble,” she said.
Doctors diagnosed peripartum cardiomyopathy, or heart failure that occurs during pregnancy.
“In a moment, my whole world changed. I was a new mother and I had a newborn baby and had to face the possibility that I wasn’t going to be around to see her grow up.”
— Becca Booth
After months of treatment, medicine and “feeling really bad,” Booth’s heart was on the mend. She changed her diet and went through cardiac rehabilitation.
Then she spent years visiting with doctors about potentially having another child.
“I desperately wanted to have another baby,” she said through tears.
Her wish came true.
After lots of bed rest and careful monitoring, she gave birth — without heart complications — to a son, Truman, who is now 11 months old.
“I am very blessed,” she said. “I owe my life to the doctors who care about and study female heart disease.”