(CHANDLER, Ariz. – May 12, 2023) – A new mom of twins is looking forward to celebrating her first Mother’s Day after surviving a heart condition caused by COVID-19 during her pregnancy. Maria Sibajene safely welcomed her twin girls at Dignity Health Chandler Regional Medical Center in February thanks to the collaborative efforts of Dignity Health in Arizona’s maternal heart council.
Maria was in her third trimester of pregnancy when she was admitted to Dignity Health Mercy Gilbert Medical Center on Valentine’s Day after her doctor noticed one of the twins may be experiencing umbilical cord complications.
While doctors kept a close eye on the babies, they also monitored Maria who was experiencing chest pain. An ultrasound of her heart determined that Maria was suffering from a serious condition called pericarditis, which caused fluid to surround the lining of her heart.
“Pericarditis can be triggered by inflammation from a viral infection,” said Dr. Rachel Bond, a cardiologist for Dignity Health in Arizona. “In Maria’s case, that viral infection was COVID-19 which she had contracted three months prior. Although pericarditis isn’t always a serious heart condition, pregnant women are at a greater risk of experiencing dangerous complications.”
“I was shocked when I learned that my body was still dealing with complications from COVID-19,” said Maria. “I have been healthy my entire life. I even ran a marathon when I was three months pregnant. But, at that moment, all I was concerned about was how this was going to impact my baby girls.”
Dr. Bond and other members of Dignity Health in Arizona’s maternal heart council, a multidisciplinary team of cardiovascular and obstetrics experts from across the Valley, collaborated on a plan of care for Maria and the twins.
The next step was to transfer Maria to Dignity Health Chandler Regional Medical Center where she would be prescribed anti-inflammatory medication aimed at reducing the fluid surrounding her heart. Chandler Regional is also home to an expert team of cardio-thoracic surgeons who could be on-call in case Maria needed more advanced care.
Luckily, the anti-inflammatory medication worked and the fluid subsided over the next few days. However, Maria wasn’t in the clear just yet. Under the close care of the maternal heart council, Maria learned she had also developed high blood pressure during pregnancy, known as preeclampsia.
On February 23, Maria and her husband welcomed their daughters, Amariah and Nariah, via emergency C-section. Since the twins were born at 33-weeks gestation, they spent a few days in Chandler Regional’s nursery intensive care unit until they were strong enough to go home.
“It was surreal to see our baby girls for the first time,” said Maria. “I was so thankful that they arrived safely after this whole experience.”
Today, Dr. Bond continues to monitor Maria’s heart as she remains on medication to treat pericarditis.
“In addition to monitoring Maria’s heart, we also discuss how some of the complications she experienced during her pregnancy may impact her health in the future,” said Dr. Bond. “For example, conditions like preeclampsia put women at a greater risk of developing heart disease in the future. So, it is important to educate women on the signs and symptoms to be aware of down the road.”
This Mother’s Day, Maria is not only celebrating with her daughters, but also her mother who recently arrived from Zambia to meet her granddaughters for the first time.
“I am so grateful to be here today and have my mother meet my baby girls for the first time,” said Maria. “This will be a Mother’s Day that I will never forget.”