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Valley woman, baby miraculously recover after emergency surgery

(Dignity Health Arizona Photo)

PHOENIX — At 33 weeks pregnant, Lupita Garcia was on the verge of starting a new chapter in life with her husband, Samuel Higuera.

However, what was anticipated to be a normal childbirth quickly turned out to be anything but routine.

The expectant mother went to Dignity Health Mercy Gilbert Medical Center suffering shortness of breath, according to a press release.

Medical staff quickly realized something was horribly wrong when they documented Garcia’s heart rate to be 240 beats per minute.

Senior Director of Maternal Child Health Meredith Hestand recalled how the emergency staff quickly decided on a course of action.

“We had our OB team and our ER team together taking care of Lupita, and realized quickly she had something cardiac going on… Her baby was showing signs she needed to be delivered,” she told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

After the emergency C-section, matters only became more complicated.

Baby Maia entered the world unable to breathe and without a pulse.

Fortunately, Maya was successfully resuscitated by medical staff and was promptly relocated to a special care nursery.

Lupita’s fate, however, still seemed very uncertain.

“Shortly after Maya was born, Lupita herself went into cardiac arrest,” Hestand said.

After a successful resuscitation, the new mother then suffered two additional cardiac arrests while in ICU care.

Hestand and her team then determined Lupita needed “a higher level of care.”

“We called on our team at St. Joe’s in Phoenix and they brought over a whole team to use a system called ECMO for Lupita, which helped do the work of her heart when her heart couldn’t do that work itself.”

Lupita was then transported to Dignity Health St. Joseph’s facility before additional assessment at a nearby Mayo Clinic, where it was expected she would require a heart transplant to survive.

That all occurred in June 2018.

Fast-forward to today: Lupita and her baby girl have have defied the odds and are living life to the fullest.

Lupita has returned to work full-time and is nearly medication-free, all without the initially anticipated heart transplant.

As for her daughter, baby Maia is enjoying a full life.

According to her mom, the 20-month-old loves to dance, sing, eat, and has even enjoyed her first family vacation with mom and dad.

Lupita’s medical complications stemmed from peripartum cardiomyopathy — a heart disorder that plagues between .001% and .00025% of pregnant women.

While Lupita’s diagnosis is not unheard of, Hestand said the that severity of her symptoms “is one of the first times we’ve seen someone become so ill and have such a significant cardiomyopathy that it put her into a situation where her heart could no longer function… So that is rare.”

Although peripartum cardiomyopathy is not typically associated with any preexisting risk factors, Hestand encourages expectant mothers to be mindful of their bodies at all times, and to report any strange symptoms to their doctors right away.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Nailea Leon contributed to this report.

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