WSVN -- Jannelle Mesa has fond memories of a happy and active life.
Jannelle Mesa: "After school I always went to the gym for about four hours after that I would go to kickboxing for another hour. I was very athletic."
Then at the age of 20 she got pregnant, but instead of getting that pregnancy glow her health started to go downhill quickly.
Jannelle Mesa: "I wouldn't be doing anything. I'd be watching TV laying down and I would already be trying to catch my breath."
Her symptoms got so bad she ended up in the hospital.
Jannelle Mesa: "I knew something was wrong. I just didn't think something was wrong times 100."
The diagnosis was shocking. Jannelle was suffering from advanced heart failure or peri-partum cardiomyopathy.
Dr. Ray Hershberger: "Cardiomyopthay occurs when the heart muscle becomes weak for any number of reasons and the heart begins to fail."
Doctors at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine say it's a rare but very serious condition.
Dr. Ray Hershberger: "It is the leading cause of death in pregnant women in the United States."
Part of the problem is the disease often goes undiagnosed because the symptoms mimic those of late-stage pregnancy.
Dr. Ray Hershberger: "Swelling in the feet and legs, shortness of breath, fatigue, tiredness."
By the time it's discovered ... The patient usually needs a heart transplant.
Dr. Ray Hershberger: "Here is the left ventricle of Janelle's sick or failing heart."
Jannelle's heart was barely pumping at all.
Jannelle Mesa: "I felt like I was dying."
She gave birth to her daughter Tatiana more than two months early and was rushed into the OR for a heart transplant.
Jannelle Mesa: "When I woke up with that new heart I felt good. The moment I woke up I felt good."
Doctors at UM are studying the condition. They believe the stress of pregnancy can trigger cardiomyopathy and that it may be hereditary. Turns out Jannelle's father also has it, but his is under control.
Now, Jannelle treasures every moment she has with her daughter. She's feeling stronger and is looking forward to a healthy future with her family.
Jannelle Mesa: "I'm not leaving anytime soon there's obviously a reason why I'm still here."
Diana Diaz: "Doctors say if you have cardiomyopathy your family members should be screened for it as well."
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
University of Miami Miller School of MedicineStudy Information:Tel: (877) 800-3430http://www.fdc.to/