Human Interest

Heroic doctors save the lives of a pregnant mother and her baby

Every pregnant mother hopes for an uncomplicated pregnancy and the safe delivery of her child. But for Brittany Forrest, her pregnancy quickly turned life-threatening. It was only the quick actions of her medical team that saved not only her life, but that of her baby as well.

Forrest was seven months pregnant when she realized something was wrong. “I woke up and had a feeling that I needed to go in, and then I guess I stopped breathing when I was in there getting examined and I woke up getting flown [to St. Paul’s Hospital],” she recounted. Doctors quickly realized that Forrest was in heart failure, and timing was critical. Her doctors were determined to not only save Forrest, but to also save her baby as well.

“We knew that Brittany was very sick and we also knew we were dealing with not just one patient but two, herself and the unborn baby,” Dr. Mustafa Toma, the cardiologist who treated Forrest, said.

Dr. Toma realized that Forrest had myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart, that had been caused by an allergic reaction. Forrest was weak, and she needed medication to keep her own heart pumping, to allow blood to reach the placenta, and to keep her baby alive. Her obstetrician, Dr. Elisabet Joa, wanted to wait to induce labor, in fears that Forrest was not strong enough to survive. It seemed that the medication was, at least initially, working.

But on April 12, Forrest suddenly went into cardiac arrest. When Code Blue was called, Dr. Toma rushed in and performed CPR, while Dr. Joa performed an emergency c-section without waiting to move her to an operating room. Dr. Joa knew that Forrest’s baby had just minutes if he was going to survive. Time was of the essence. So while Dr. Joa worked to save the baby, Dr. Toma and his team of other doctors and nurses tried to save Forrest herself, eventually putting her on a bypass machine after resuscitating her.

Baby Jaxon ended up being born two months premature — but he was alive. And so was his mother. After a few days of being on life support, Forrest’s heart pump was removed, and her cardiac function normalized. Dr. Joa calls their survival a “miracle.” As for Forrest, she’s grateful that the hospital saved them both. “I’m just glad I’m here and the baby’s okay,” she said.

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