Rare Heart Condition in New Mom Successfully Treated at The Mount Sinai Hospital

Danielle Cognetti, joyfully expecting twins, had thought her pregnancy was going fine. She was eating well and exercising almost five days a week. It was a surprise to learn, five weeks before her due date, that the vital signs of one of the babies had grown concerning. Danielle ended up having an emergency Caesarean section. And there were complications during the delivery—her blood pressure skyrocketed, and she hemorrhaged. The babies, Ava and Chloe, were born four pounds each and spent several weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at The Mount Sinai Hospital.

When she got home, Danielle noticed she had swollen ankles and difficulty breathing. But she thought it was all a normal part of recuperating from an emergency C-section. The symptoms continued—and got worse. “I couldn’t get to the bathroom without holding on,” she remembers. After two days, Danielle went back to the hospital and was immediately admitted.

Diagnostic scans indicated that Danielle had peripartum cardiomyopathy, a rare type of heart failure that affects women near the end of their pregnancy and up to five months after. The condition weakens the heart muscle and can be deadly. Seeking medical help probably saved her life, said Anuradha Lala, MD, Assistant Professor of Cardiology, and Population Health Science and Policy at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Director of Heart Failure Research. Danielle was at increased risk of heart failure because she was over age 35 and carrying twins.

Kimberly Ashley, FNP-BC is a nurse practitioner and member of the team that cared for Danielle. “When Mrs. Cognetti was first referred to us and I heard her story, it felt very personal,” she says. “We are both the same age and I could not begin to imagine what she was going through.  Not just physically but mentally as well. It has been such a rewarding experience to be part of a team that was able to successfully treat her and give her back her life.”

Danielle responded well to medications and a change in diet, and five months later, she is feeling good, Still, she is at high risk for getting heart disease again. And Danielle has to be especially careful about exposure to COVID-19. Heart disease is one of the most common underlying conditions of COVID-19 patients, who are at higher risk of being hospitalized and having a worse outcome. 

Fortunately, Ava and Chloe are thriving, and Danielle is enjoying motherhood. “It’s an incredible blessing to have two of them,” she says. Danielle is thrilled with the care she received at Mount Sinai. “Everyone was so wonderful,” she says. “I’m grateful to Dr. Lala for having the knowledge to diagnose me so quickly and to put a plan in place to help me recover.”