University of South Florida

Grateful patient thanks USF Health cardiology, obstetrics team

On a morning in December 2021, Tiffani Craig woke up and had trouble breathing. At 27 weeks into her pregnancy, her first concern was her unborn baby so she rushed to the hospital, where she was immediately admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU).

“When I woke up, I did not know what was happening, I immediately started panicking,” Craig said. “I did not know if I was having a heart attack or if I had gotten pneumonia, or what it was.”

Her diagnosis was peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM), a condition with no known cause in which the muscles of the heart become weakened during the final month of pregnancy to as much as five months after delivery.

“She felt as if she was drowning and gasping for air because her lungs were filling up with fluid from her heart failure. However, thanks to the quick direction of our ICU team as well as our cardiology team, we were able to improve her condition rapidly within 24-72 hours,” said Alejandro Rodriguez, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.

Tiffani stayed in the hospital for 6 weeks due to her heart function being so low, and was monitored closely by Daniela Crousillat, MD, assistant professor in USF Health’s Division of Cardiology, who is a non-invasive cardiologist and advanced echocardiographer with a clinical interest in women’s cardiovascular health.

“We were nervous sending her home because we knew her heart function was so weakened, and we were worried about what that would mean for her and the rest of the pregnancy. She was given ultrasounds of her heart for us to see how it was functioning, which helped us tailor her care and determine the best time to deliver her baby,” Dr. Crousillat said.

During that period of time, Craig and her baby were monitored very closely, which helped Craig carry her baby to full term.

“This whole experience was worth it. It was just amazing to know that my baby is here, and he made it here safely,” Craig said.

Story and video by Ryan Rossy, USF Health Communications and Marketing

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