When Ali Barton, 31, was about 18 weeks pregnant, she began experiencing “bizarre” swelling in her legs, sudden weight fluctuation, and intense nausea after just a few bites of food. Her local care team at the time attributed these symptoms to her pregnancy, but a few weeks later, Ali went to her community emergency department, worried that she may have a virus.
Following an echocardiogram, she was immediately transferred to Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), where a team of high-risk obstetricians and heart failure specialists were intensely focused on her care. Ali previously had been diagnosed with endomyocardial fibrosis, a rare disease that causes a thickening of the walls of the heart, resulting in difficulty pumping and fluid retention.
Ali’s physicians at BWH had never seen a case of endomyocardial fibrosis in a pregnant woman, and with no experience to go on, they were deeply concerned for the health of both Ali and her unborn baby.