When Hristina Nesheva turned 35 years old, the desire to start a family pushed wildly within her. She and her husband, Ndri, had been struggling to have a viable pregnancy and, sadly, she had already suffered two miscarriages. To make matters worse, Hristina said her heartache felt unheard and minimized at her initial obstetrics and gynecological office.
"The doctors I was seeing were making it like it was not a big deal, like it happens all the time and you just move forward - but this was a big deal for me," Hristina remembers. "I was not happy with the care there, so I chose to try an ob/gyn physician at St. Mark's Hospital."
Hope grows when doctors hear your story Hristina selected Dr. Sean Edmunds, an experienced obstetrics and gynecologic physician within St. Mark's Hospital's Women Center. Immediately upon meeting Dr. Edmunds, Hristina could feel a difference in care - this experience was personalized, genuine, compassionate and top-quality.
"Dr. Edmunds saw me and he heard me. He really listened and got to know my concerns," Hristina recalled.
Soon after her initial visit with Dr. Edmunds and preliminary testing, Hristina got pregnant again. Unfortunately, at 17 weeks, she suffered another miscarriage. The devastation crushed Hristina, and her fears about not being able to start her family grew in intensity.
"When you have multiple losses in pregnancy you can become sort of paranoid," Hristina said. "Dr. Edmunds listened and worked with me and my fears. He checked on me more than any other physician had - physically and mentally. I came to see him as a friend because of the way he talked and listened to me."
Dr. Edmunds continued to encourage and meet with Hristina, and soon after her third shattering miscarriage Hristina became pregnant again.
A broken heart - experts unite when complications strike During her fourth pregnancy, Dr. Edmunds met with Hristina on a weekly basis, and sometimes even more frequently.
"Every time I had a moment of panic or doubt, Dr. Edmunds took time to see me and talk with me. He's incredibly kind," Hristina said.
In addition to the three miscarriages, Hristina's body came with another high-risk situation: Hristina was born with a bicuspid aortic valve. That means Hristina's aortic valve only has two leaflets to regulate blood from the heart, instead of three.
Approximately 10 years ago, Hristina underwent an open-heart surgery to replace her aortic valve with a valve made from tissue of a pig. The replacement valve only lasts about 10 years, so Hristina recognized that her heart condition and the timing of her pregnancy highly elevated her risks.
"I knew my heart would not handle pregnancy super well, but I didn't realize it was going to get so bad. It overwhelmed my entire body and I entered a critical stage," Hristina said.
Hristina suffered from extreme dizziness, dropping blood pressure, a racing heart, weakness and more. As the pregnancy progressed, her cardiac-related symptoms grew more serious.
To contest the complications, Dr. Edmund formed a multi-disciplinary group who met weekly to discuss Hristina's situation. The team involved St. Mark's renowned cardiovascular physicians, neonatologists, anesthesiologists and medical directors. Their collaboration and close watch on Hristina's worsening symptoms led to the decision to deliver Hristina's baby at 37 weeks gestation, via C-section.
Delivery day - a team effort Most laboring mothers deliver their babies within St. Mark's Women's Center, but due to Hristina's heart condition, she welcomed her baby girl into the world within the main hospital's operating room. Dr. Edmund and the interdisciplinary team took this precaution in case an emergency, open-heart surgery would be necessary following Hristina's labor and delivery. Dr. Scott Hacking, a triple board-certified cardiovascular physician, stood by with neonatologists and anesthesiologists - prepared and ready.
Thankfully, Hristina delivered a beautiful, healthy baby girl and had no need for an open-heart surgery.
Following the delivery, Hristina recovered in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CICU) for about 12 hours, allowing her body to stabilize and ensuring close watch from Dr. Hacking and specialized cardiac nurses. When it was finally time to meet her baby, Hristina could barely contain her love and excitement.
"I could hear the nurse approaching with the rolling cart and baby coming, and my heart rate went up so high! The nurses told me I needed to calm down because I was still recovering, but I couldn't help it," Hristina said. "When they handed her to me, it was a moment of pure joy. She is the world to us."
Hristina lights up when she talks about her little girl, Milena Olivia. The dark-haired beauty looks about with big, brown eyes, giggling. She's now more than 3 months old and already sits up by herself. Milena is growing up in a loving, multi-lingual family, as Hristina speaks Bulgarian at home and Milena's father, Ndri, who is from West Africa, speaks French. And perhaps someday Milena will have a sibling to chat with.
"I know it sounds insane, but we want to have one more to complete our family," Hristina said. "When the time comes, I'm definitely going to go to the same team at St. Mark's Hospital. They are wonderful. I can't thank them enough for what they've done. They've given me the world! I have my baby because of them!"