Antiganee Cain-Francis had multiple episodes of cardiac arrest in the month after she gave birth.
The 32-year-old was later diagnosed with a rare condition that caused her heart to beat irregularly.
Doctors had to burn away part of her heart muscle to correct the problem, she told Today.com.
Antiganee Cain-Francis, 32, was a week into recovering from a C-section delivery when she temporarily lost her sight and hearing.
The new mom told Today.com in March that she was healing well and getting to know her newborn daughter after her birth in September 2022. But weekend following her birth, she said she stood up to check on her baby and was overtaken by a feeling like "static" in her body.
Although Cain-Francis could not see or hear, she was able to scream for her husband, who called her doctor. She was rushed to the emergency room at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.
Cain-Francis, a New York City public school teacher, was stabilized when she arrived at the hospital. But her health declined again in the early hours of the morning, and she went into cardiac arrest. In the weeks that followed she would be intubated, transferred, and resuscitated again before doctors would figure out what was causing her heart to malfunction.
It took 3 weeks for doctors to diagnose her
Cain-Francis had two episodes of cardiac arrest during her hospital stay. After her first at around 2:30am the day after she was admitted to Lenox Hill, doctors put her on a ventilator and ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation), a machine that pumps oxygen-rich blood through the body when the heart and lungs cannot function properly. Her heart rhythm returned to normal after three days on the machines and she was transferred to North Shore University Hospital on Long Island, according to Today.com.
But her heart began to malfunction again shortly after the medical team decided to wean her off of the ventilator.
"She seemed to be doing well," Dr. Ramanak Mitra, the specialist who treated Cain-Francis, told Today.com, "but within about 24 hours, she started to have a few of these extra beats." As her heart continued to beat rapidly, she went into cardiac arrest for the second time.
Luckily, Mitra's team recorded the irregular beats and was finally able to diagnose Cain-Francis based on the strange pattern of her heartbeats.
She was diagnosed with a rare disease that has no clear cause
Doctors diagnosed Cain-Francis with a condition called idiopathic triggered ventricular fibrillation, where the heart sometimes beats irregularly without a clear cause. Although the condition is rarely diagnosed in young patients, it is also one of the main causes of unexplained sudden cardiac death for patients under the age of 35, according to a 2018 research paper in the journal Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine.
"There's one particular site in the heart muscle," Mitra told Today.com, "and when it fires, it basically puts the heart into a tailspin."
To treat Cain-Francis, Mitra used a technique called pace mapping to locate the source of the irregular heartbeat. Then, he threaded a tiny catheter into her heart and cauterized the problem area. Cain-Francis "passed with flying colors" when she was evaluated after the procedure, and she was taken off ECMO the next day.
In some cases, doctors are able to find a genetic mutation underlying the condition, but idiopathic cases such as Cain-Francis' have no clear cause. An MRI later confirmed that she had no structural abnormalities or inflammation in her heart, Today.com reported.
Cain-Francis returned home to her infant daughter in the first week of October with a defibrillator newly implanted under her skin. By December, she said she finally felt like herself again.
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