Hickory, N.C. woman and baby survive after mom suffers rare heart attack mid-pregnancy

Pregnant woman survives heart attack

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WBTV) - Brittany Little was about to become a mother for the third time when she had an unexpected heart attack that jeopardized both her and her unborn daughter’s lives.

It was early Nov. 2019 when Brittany went to Grace Hospital in Morganton.

“I realized that I couldn’t breathe,” Little explained.

She was transferred to FRYE Regional Medical Center in Hickory where the surprising news was delivered.

“I couldn’t believe I was having a heart attack,” Little said.

Little says no one in her family has a history of heart trouble and she never had issues in her previous pregnancies.

According to doctors at Wake Forest Baptist Health, Brittany was having a spontaneous coronary artery dissection. It is a type of heart attack in which the lining of the artery unravels and could eventually block the artery completely. Doctors say it occasionally happens to women postpartum, but rarely occurs in women who have yet to deliver.

“It’s a very rare event for a pregnant patient to have a heart attack,” Dr. Phillip Heine, Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Wake Forest Baptist Health said.

Physicians at FRYE Regional Medical Center resuscitated Brittany and put in two stents to keep her artery from closing. She was then rushed to Wake Forest Baptist Health where teams of physicians would consider how to safely deliver her baby.

“There’s a balance between getting mom to a stable condition and then having to deliver baby for maternal safety or helping the baby survive,” Dr. Heine said.

Doctors tried to wait to deliver Brittany’s baby so that she could recover from the heart attack, but Professor of Cardiology at Wake Forest Baptist Health Dr. Michael A. Kutcher says she was on the brink of heart failure.

“We really were in uncharted territory, I had not had a case like this,” Dr. Kutcher said. “We could have lost both baby and mom. I personally had a lot of sleepless nights thinking about all of our options.”

After weighing the options and potential risks, Dr. Heine and Dr. Kutcher decided to deliver Brittany’s baby via C-section in a Cath lab so that equipment was available in case Brittany’s heart could not handle the delivery.

Thankfully, no such equipment was needed because Nova was born without complications.

“It was very emotional, I mean it’s new life,” Dr. Kutcher said. “I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. It was a very joyous feeling.”

Dr. Heine says it is hard to say whether Nova will experience any long-term effects from her mother’s heart attack, but she appears to be healthy and unharmed at 7 weeks old.

Meanwhile, Brittany is still recovering from the heart attack but is also expected to be okay.

“Hearing her cry at the time and knowing she was okay put me at ease,” Little said.

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