Mother waits on a heart
Monica Bermudez Manrique, of Clyde, was shocked when doctors told her four years ago she would need a heart transplant — she was 26-years-old and about to have her first child.
She had a blood clot in her heart, cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure. These were conditions she was all too familiar with since her father had a heart transplant 12 years ago and her brother’s heart condition is being treated with medication.
“I knew what would come along with it, but it was still shocking,” Monica said. “I went from never being sick a day in my life to being shoved in and out of the hospital and undergoing tons of tests.”
She also knew the financial hardships that would accompany such a condition.
Even though it was her first pregnancy, Monica knew her symptoms were extreme in her fourth month. Her feet were swelling, her heart felt like it was pounding out of her chest and she was struggling to breathe. But her doctor assured her it was normal and her blood pressure was fine.
“But I knew something just was not right… I couldn't sleep on my side or my back because I couldn't breathe,” she said. “I had to sleep sitting straight up and down in a 90-degree angle. I couldn't get out of the bed without running out of breath.”
Determined to find out what was going on, Monica and her husband, Manuel, decided to go to Mission Hospital. She stayed there all day undergoing tests until the doctor came back with the dreaded news. Since her father and brother were both treated at Duke University Medical, the doctors at Mission transferred Monica there as well.
She was put on medications to try to mitigate the situation and was told her she would have to have a cesarean at 32 weeks because her heart couldn’t handle carrying the baby to full term. Her daughter BreeAnna Nicole Manrique was born Sept. 25, 2009. She weighed just over 4 pounds, but overall she was healthy.
Monica was sent home in early October and continued to see a doctor at Duke twice a year and a doctor at Asheville Cardiology twice a year. Her medications were changed again when she started retaining a lot of fluid, but it only helped for a couple of months.
The doctor told her during a 2012 check up that her heart was only getting worse and she would need a heart transplant sooner rather than later. She also was told about an LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device) that would help her heart pump until she could get a transplant — only a temporary fix.
“I discussed this with my doctor and I said I was not ready to go that route yet so he adjusted my meds again,” Monica said. However, she can’t be placed on the transplant list until she loses 30 pounds.
“But it’s hard to do with a back problem or your foot hurting,” she said. “And I have a lot more working against me if I do get a heart. I have too many antibodies that can cause my body to reject the heart.”
She was put on a 24-hour a day IV drip in August 2012 and was told she needed to start raising $12,000 for two years worth of anti-rejection medication before she could go on the transplant list.
“I had to prove that I would be able to afford my medication so from then on out I was starting out my journey to raise money,” Monica said.
Determined not to have to have the LVAD, she stayed on the IV until February, but she started feeling nauseous and getting chills. She had gotten an infection from the IV line and was again transported to Duke – but this time by helicopter.
“That is how serious I was sick,” she said. “When I got tot Duke I was told my kidneys where not doing great because I was being over loaded with fluid meds. So yet again my meds were being tweaked to see what could be done, but this time nothing could be done. I was slowly dying.”
She had no choice but to get the LVAD on March 5, the day after her 30th birthday.
She now has her insurance, plus she is now on her husband’s insurance, which should help pay for the anti-rejection medication. However, there are still expenses like driving the 250 miles to Duke twice a year and all the associated costs that go along with it.
It’s been a tough four years full of countless doctor visits, hospital stays and wondering about her family’s future. According to The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, about 3,000 people in the U.S. are on the waiting list for a heart transplant on any given day, but only about 2,000 donor hearts are available each year.
But Monica is thankful for her family and the blessings they have each day. BreeAnna is a healthy, happy, almost 4-year-old, her husband Manuel has a great job at ConMet in Canton and her parents help in any way they can.
“I’m just taking it as it comes — if you think about, it you’ll go crazy,” she said. “I can’t think about it.”
If anyone would like to help Monica while she waits for a heart, you can make a donation at HomeTrust Bank care of “Monica’s Heart.” For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/2012heartmonica.