Washington Township cardiac patient shares her journey to motherhood

Washington Township cardiac patient shares her journey to motherhood

Washington Township cardiac patient shares her journey to motherhood

A team of doctors at Corewell Health worked together to plan for the big day


Ever since she was a child diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia supraventricular tachycardia, a big word used to describe a fast or irregular heartbeat, leading a normal life has required a little restraint and a whole lot of planning for Sarah Young.

But it’s been worth it.

“He’s doing great,” Young said of the newest member of the family.

“He’s crawling and always on the move,” added the Washington Township mom, whose barrier whose journey to motherhood is proof many heart issues are no longer a barrier to pregnancy.

In December 1999, Young was a sixth-grader looking forward to a party at her school the school and not the least bit concerned about becoming a mother, when life for the 11-year-old changed forever.

“That’s why I remember it so well: It was my sixth-grade Christmas party that afternoon,” went afternoon,” said Young, now 34, and a resident of Washington Township. “I went to fast to my routine checkup in the pediatrician’s office and my heart was beating so fast you could see my pulse in my neck.”

Discovering the Problem

It was then that physicians at Corwell Health William Beaumont (formerly Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak) diagnosed her as having supraventricular tachycardia, also called an arrhythmia, caused by a malfunction of the electrical system that regulates the heart.

Some arrhythmias can be serious and affect blood flow in the heart or cause the heart to stop beating completely.

After a few days in the hospital, she was sent home on Christmas Eve wearing a heart monitor.

Young’s arrhythmia was kept in check with medication for most of her youth but when it was no longer enough to control her arrhythmia and, at age 18, she underwent a cardiac ablation, a controlled scarring of the heart muscle causing the rapid heartbeat.

“No caffeine, no chocolate; I could still dance, but had to stop if I was tired or dizzy,” Young said. “They wanted me to live a normal life and I did.”

The combination of medication and the ablation proved successful. However, her doctors warned her in advance when she was ready to have a family planning was critical.

Young said she always wanted children but had a lot of questions because of her condition.

She’s not alone.

Dr. Zeynep Alpay-Savasan, Young’s maternal-fetal medicine doctor at Corewell Health  William Beaumont University Hospital, often sees women with cardiac issues who don’t know if pregnancy is a viable option.

“Cardiac diseases in pregnancy were a big problem in the past,” said Alpay-Savasan. “Both from the obstetric side and cardiology side, our knowledge and care is much better and safer now.”

So, two years after getting married in 2016, Young was switched to a heart medication reliably used by pregnant women without complications and within a few months she conceived and the intense monitoring began.

Young said this required a great deal of time management on her part — in order to keep up with scans every four weeks, as well as specialized ultrasounds, to monitor her and her baby’s growth. She also underwent tests to monitor her blood volume, heart function and general health as her due date approached.

“I was scared, maybe stressed, closer to delivery,” Young said. “I was scared about the baby but more about me. When I give birth would I have a problem? What if my heart beats too fast?”

Surprisingly, only about 40% of women in the U.S. who gave birth in 2019 had good heart health prior to their pregnancy, according to last year’s study by the American Heart Association. Further research by the American Heart Association showed that unlike Young’s case, obesity was the major driver of poor pre-pregnancy health, followed by hypertension and diabetes.

What’s important in all cases is addressing the issues before, during and after pregnancy.

“Optimizing their health before getting pregnant is important,” Alpay-Savasan said. “In Sarah’s case, because of the ablation and the fact that she was on rhythm control medication, her symptoms had improved. If she had not been treated or had had ablation, she could have had complications, including death.”

Instead she gave birth to her now 3-year-old son, Benson, on Jan. 4, 2020 and after similar planning in 2021 delivered Jaxson on July 1, 2022.

Her heart was fine throughout her first birth but her heart rate dropped to an abnormally low 40 beats per minute during her second delivery, but with help from her team of experts and more medication adjustments, got it back on track.

Again, planning made for a better outcome, as the same doctors who had worked with her throughout her pregnancy came together with the specialists in anesthesia, labor and delivery for the birthdays.

To help more mothers in the future doctors will address the dearth of knowledge about women, pregnancy and cardiac issues by creating a national registry of cardiovascular outcomes in pregnancy and post-pregnancy.

“Much of the research in this area is based on expert opinion not scientific study,” said Dr. Nishaki Mehta, a cardiac electrophysiologist at Corewell Health and associate professor at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine working with Alpay-Savasan on the national registry. “Everyone is always cautious of doing any research with pregnant women.”

However, it’s important and timely.

“Pregnancy and heart issues are on the rise,” she said. “Many more older women are contemplating pregnancy and as the demo has shifted to women being older, we know that cardiac issues track with increased age. The good news: there are very few heart conditions that are an absolute no for pregnancy.”

Who knows? The Youngs might consider trying for a girl.

We’ll see where the future goes,” she said.

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