Kirsty Wild, from Portsmouth, thanks the team that implanted a machine into her heart over seven years ago which has since saved her life following her heart failure in September 2018.
Back in December 2012, then 31-year-old Kirsty had recently given birth to her son Harry and was ready to get back to work following a year of maternity leave. Little did she know that this would not be the case.
Kirsty had been feeling tight chested, short of breath and fatigued for a while and went to see her GP. “I went to see my doctor as I couldn’t even lie flat,” says Kirsty. “I was told it was just a bug and started taking an inhaler.”
Two weeks on, Kirsty was back at work but still feeling poorly so she took another trip to see her doctor. An Electrocardiography (ECG) was carried out and results came back ‘abnormal’ so Kirsty was sent to Queen Alexandra Hospital (QA) immediately for an x-ray. Kirsty says: “I was so shocked to hear what the doctor told me. My x-ray showed my heart was enlarged with fluid on my lungs. This is when everything changed for me.”
Kirsty spent a week in hospital on the Cardiology Unit where numerous tests were carried out and the fluid was drained from her lungs. “The hardest part of it all was being diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, something I am stuck with for the rest of my life,” Kirsty says.
Dilated cardiomyopathy is a condition in which the heart's ability to pump blood is decreased because the heart's main pumping chamber, the left ventricle, is enlarged and weakened. In some cases, it prevents the heart from relaxing and filling with blood as it should. Over time, it can affect the other heart chambers.
As a precaution, the heart failure team decided to fit an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) to Kirsty’s heart, which is a device that sends shocks to the heart whenever it detects the heart going into dangerous life-threatening rhythm.
Following her stay in hospital, Kirsty’s life had drastically changed and had to completely rely on her husband, Chris for everything. She adds: “I was very sick, I couldn’t climb the stairs or even pick up my baby. My husband had to do everything around the house from cooking, cleaning and bathing me.
“I had to take 18 months off work where I learnt to do everything again. I have learnt to listen to my body and know my limits. I am on some good medication and on a yearly basis I visit Harefield Hospital, a heart transplant clinic in London, where they run tests and keep a close eye on me. Fortunately as it stands I don’t need a heart transplant.”
Life seemed to be going well for Kirsty and her family until September 2018 when things took a turn for the worse. Kirsty explains: “It started off as a normal day. I watched a bit of TV and then went to put some washing out on the line when suddenly I started to feel really dizzy and lightheaded. I quickly sat on my kitchen floor and, the next thing I know, I have fainted.
“I woke up laid on the floor confused. I managed to drag myself to call an ambulance and my husband, who took me straight to QA.”
Kirsty spent the next two days back in hospital where she was informed that her ICD had actually saved her life. “I couldn’t believe it,” Kirsty notes. “I am so glad the heart failure team fitted the ICD as it saved my life and I can’t praise them enough.”
Following her near death experience back in September, Kirsty now fears for her son’s life after genetic testing came back indicating that she has a rare altered gene called ‘bag3’.
Dawn Lambert, Lead Heart Failure Nurse Specialist, adds: “Genetic testing is quite complex with around 50 gene mutations discovered so far. Those we know about can also mutate and variants can look different in individuals. Nationally they are trying to collect a library of gene mutations and this may aid diagnosis of dilated cardiomyopathy, progression of illness, whether an individual is likely to have arrhythmias.”
Kirsty will not know the future of her son until he is at least 10-years-old when he too can have the new gene testing. “It is a nerve-wracking thought as my three brothers could potentially have this altered gene as well as my eight-year-old son,” Kirsty notes. “The thought of my son going through what I have is not a thought any mother wants to have.”