Lifelong Roswell resident Sarah Bradley addresses an attentive crowd Thursday at Lovelace Regional Hospital’s annual Cowgirls With a Cause, that raises awareness for heart disease in women. Bradley continues to await a heart transplant. Meanwhile, she must always carry with her a controller (pictured) and two batteries. (Bethany Freudenthal Photo)
A Roswell woman is continuing to fight for her life after complications from a pregnancy left her in need of a heart transplant. At 27 years old, with no prior health issues, Sarah Bradley told the Roswell Daily Record last year that she has had to lean on her family to get her through a diagnosis of peripartum cardiomyopothy, a condition that caused the left-side of her heart to enlarge.
Maintaining a full-time job throughout her own health crisis, Bradley’s family received devastating news last year when her mother, who has been a huge support to the young family was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer.
“We took her to Mayo (clinic) and the Mayo doctors after looking over what the Roswell doctors sent came up with some chemo plans and told her that they would be more than happy to work with the Roswell doctors and have her go through chemo here, but that in the end she would never go into remission,” Bradley said.
Having battled against breast cancer five years ago Bradley said the sudden diagnosis was difficult, but there is a connection between the two cancers.
“She was cancer-free for over five years and then all of a sudden this hit and it was just unexpected and what they had told us, we met with a geneticist over in Mayo and they told us there had been links now that some forms of breast cancer had been linked to this type of breast cancer that my mom now has,” Bradley said.
At 33 weeks into her pregnancy, Bradley said she started feeling shortness of breath, exhaustion and wasn’t able to sleep on her back or side. In January 2015, Bradley said she urged her husband to take her to the emergency room and after a few tests, the on-call OBGYN decided to transport her to Albuquerque where she was given the life-changing diagnosis.
After her son Logan’s birth, Bradley was moved to the heart wing at the University of New Mexico Medical Center where she was given medication for her condition. Physicians told her that a lot of times women with this condition recover with treatment.
Sent home without her son, who was born early, Bradley was rushed to the hospital after thinking she was battling the flu. “I went semi-unconscious and I was going into full-on heart failure then my heart just stopped,” Bradley told the Daily Record last year. The left side of her heard had stopped pumping blood to her organs.
Eventually, Bradley was flown to the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, where the LVAD was placed to assist her heart. The surgery left her with a chord that comes out through her stomach and is hooked up to a controller and two batteries that she must carry with her at all times. The device keeps her heart pumping.
Traveling often to Arizona for checkups and treatments, Bradley said her mother’s diagnosis with cancer has been difficult because her mom has helped them out a great deal.
“It’s been really hard. I think, you know I have my husband who is my main, I can’t say caretaker because I can do a lot on my own, but my husband is my main one, but my mom has been also my main caretaker, especially helping with the kids now that my husband’s a detective,” Bradley said.
With chemotherapy every other week, Bradley said their family has really had to pull together to make sure everything is taken care of.
“I have to thank God that I’ve been doing so well on my LVAD right now because I don’t know how we would do it if I would end up sick while all this is going on,” Bradley said.
For Bradley, finding a match has been difficult because her antibodies are too high. For a healthy person, Bradley explained having a high level of antibodies is a good thing, but when an individual needs an organ transplant, it’s not good because there is a higher chance that the body will reject the organ.
Since her mother’s cancer diagnosis, Bradley, along with her physicians decided to stop trying to lower her antibodies so she could be as healthy and strong for her mother as she could be.
“It’s disheartening. It’s one of those things where it’s like I really thought at first that that was the answer, but at the same time it’s an eye-opener,” Bradley said.
In stopping her treatments, Bradley said she has realized that perhaps this is a good thing, because if she is matched with a heart where her levels are at the time, her antibodies could shoot back up and her body could still reject her new heart.
“It’s like would it be better to fake it until I get one, or just find a perfect match and wait however many years I have to wait, because come March, next month, it’ll be two years since I’ve been on the list,” Bradley said.
Currently, Bradley’s physicians are working on getting her seen in clinics located in other states in order to give her a greater chance at being matched with a heart. Because her mother’s health condition is terminal, Bradley said she would like to receive her new heart before her mother dies.
Through her experience, Bradley has come to realize the importance of registering to be an organ donor.
“You never know what it would mean to somebody until it happens to you and I can only imagine the excitement, and the happiness and the sadness and all of those feelings mixed into one when I finally do get that call realizing that someone is giving me that second chance and their family is supporting them in doing that,” Bradley said.
In order to register as an organ donor visit organdonor.gov
Donations for the young family are currently being accepted at gofundme.com/obaebw
Staff writer Bethany Freudenthal can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or firstname.lastname@example.org.