Ali Barton with her newborn son, Ethan.

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.

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