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Although she was diagnosed with a heart murmur at birth, Araceli Vazquez grew up much like any other young girl. She maintained a normal, healthy life into adulthood, with no limits on her physical activity.
Not yet a patient at NorthShore, Vazquez became pregnant in her late 20s and was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension. This type of high blood pressure affects arteries in the lungs and the right side of the heart, and can be particularly dangerous for pregnant women.
“I was really scared with the possibility I might not be able to have the baby,” recalled the now 29-year-old Vazquez of Wheeling. Thankfully, she was referred to a team of NorthShore Cardiovascular Institute specialists, who quickly went to work further assessing her condition.
“During pregnancy, pressures in the heart become elevated and that’s a big concern for someone with pulmonary hypertension,” explained Cardiologist Robert Gordon, MD. But after additional tests on his new patient, Dr. Gordon discovered that the pulmonary hypertension was not accurately diagnosed.An echocardiogram and MRI at NorthShore revealed a potentially dangerous congenital defect, including a large hole in her heart and a narrowed pulmonary valve.
This finding created other considerations, so Dr. Gordon led a multispecialty team of NorthShore clinicians to monitor Vazquez, including Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist Scott MacGregor, DO, who has expertise in high-risk obstetrics and fetal diagnostics. “We had to manage this very carefully to get her though the pregnancy, both for her and the baby,” Dr. Gordon added.
Second Opinion in a Heartbeat
Due to the complex nature of Vazquez’s case, Dr. Gordon also tapped into NorthShore’s ongoing collaboration with Mayo Clinic and consulted with congenital heart disease expert Carole Warnes, MD, to discuss the mom-to-be’s ongoing care.
The two experts concurred on a treatment plan: putting Vazquez on a daily aspirin to prevent blood clotting issues and closely monitoring her to get the mother and baby safely through the pregnancy. Once Vazquez was stabilized after childbirth, she could then undergo surgery to close the hole in her heart and repair the narrowed valve.
“Through our collaboration, we determined that as long as Araceli was managed properly and followed carefully, she had a high likelihood for a good outcome,” noted Dr. Warnes.
Fortunately for mother and baby, that is exactly what happened. Vazquez delivered a healthy son, Dylan, and then several months later underwent successful open-heart surgery with NorthShore Cardiac Surgeon Hyde Russell, MD, who specializes in intricate congenital heart procedures. Both Dr. Russell and Dr. Gordon also hold academic appointments at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.
“It was really hard because I couldn’t lift the baby for two months,” she said. But now fully recovered, Vazquez can easily lift Dylan, engage in playtime and keep tabs on him as he toddles around the house.
“The doctors and the whole staff at NorthShore did a very good job of taking care of me,” added Vazquez, who mentioned she and her husband are now considering having more children. “I’m so happy and calm knowing that I can now do things without fear.”