I am a 57-year-old wife and mother residing in the Greater Philadelphia area. Twenty-three years ago, in 1999 at the age of thirty-four, I had just given birth to our second daughter. I had a good pregnancy with no complications, and I was thrilled to have two beautiful little girls. Our oldest was just two and half at the time when I got received the news of my illness that spring.
Peripartum Cardiomyopathy Diagnosis
In April of 1999, two months after childbirth, I started experiencing symptoms such as dizziness, shortness of breath upon exertion, and difficulty lying flat on my back at night without feeling short of breath. I contacted my general practitioner who diagnosed me with asthma and gave me an inhaler. Time when by, and the symptoms were getting worse. I was starting to fear death as I was feeling sometimes faint and a lack of oxygen which scared me. I was sent to have tests done and to go to a cardiologist within weeks. I feared the news even though nurses and even my doctor told me they did not think it was anything serious.
Receiving the News
For those who understand health trauma, there is nothing quite like getting difficult diagnosis. I distinctly remember the doctor saying, “There is no easy way to say this….” Peripartum Cardiomyopathy affects women usually within two months give or take after delivery. There is no cure for the disease, and it is rare. The mortality rate is around 18 to 56 percent give or take, and some mothers must seek heart transplants who suffer with the disease. With a toddler and newborn baby, this news came to me as devastating. This disease is a form of congestive heart failure which affects postpartum mothers.
Lukewarm in my Catholic faith at the time, I was desperate for answers and for healing. I called my mother who told me to call my church and talk to a priest to receive prayer. Before the days of voicemail or answering services, the young parochial vicar picked up the main line of the parish office center. He jumped in the car and was over at my house within 15 minutes to offer me the Anointing of the Sick. This is one of the seven sacraments of the church where the priest does an anointing and says specific prayers for healing on the journey. Not all are cured physically when given the sacrament, but spiritual healing and strength to bear the cross are definite gifts.
I had never experienced this sacrament before that day in April 1999, and it is a time I will never forget. I had gone back to get more tests within a week and received an immediate call from the doctor’s office on the same day. The call came from the technician who gave me the echocardiogram and the doctor were on speaker phone.
They confirmed the best news. My left ventricle had gone back to normal size which was the greatest news I could receive. I was told that this indicated healing. Within one year, I regained my strength and was able to resume a completely normal life. To this day 23 years later at age 57, my health has been about as good as I would have ever wished. I am eternally grateful to God for so many years of health and wellness, and to have lived out motherhood to raise my beautiful family. I have never taken this for granted, and I never will. I told the Lord on that day, “My life is yours. Do with me as you please.” I pray I can continue to serve him in the best ways possible while I am living on earth.
Words of Wisdom to Those Who Suffer
The most profound gift I have received in all of this is increased empathy for those who suffer in mind, body, or spirit. God wishes for me to pass along is his love to those who feel scared, lonely, insecure, and depressed because of a diagnosis or illness. The Sacrament of the Sick is not a magic wand, but it gives us the stamina needed and the spiritual healing to continue life’s path despite setbacks.
God is with us in all that we do no matter what life throws at us. His healing is meant for each one of us. Although not all ailments are cured, we can be assured that his greatest desire to that we understand and know his love in the most wonderful ways. He desires our happiness! Never forget that he will be with you through all the storms of life including those involving sickness, crisis, and even end of life issues. May God bless you and heal you as you trust in his providence every day.
Could you or someone you know use extra prayers at this time? Contact the St. Raymond Nonnatus Foundation, and send a prayer request by clicking HERE.