Moorland mom has Stage 4 heart failure
Transplant will eventually be needed
Instead of sitting in the bleachers, cheering at her daughter’s volleyball game on Thursday evening, Brooke Beschorner, of Moorland, had to watch the match on the small screen of her cell phone from three hours away.
Beschorner, 43, has spent this last week in the cardiac unit at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Stage 4 heart failure. Her entire life, she’s struggled with several congenital heart defects.
“She was a blue baby,” her mother, Shelley Jensen, of Fort Dodge, said. “That’s what they called them — blue babies.”
That “blue baby” was diagnosed with transposition of the great vessels, which is when the two major vessels that carry blood away from the heart (the aorta and the pulmonary artery) are switched from their normal positions; patent ductus arteriosus, which is a persistent opening between the two major blood vessels leading from the heart; and ventricular septal defect, which is a hole in the wall (septum) that separates the two lower chambers (ventricles) of the heart.
Beschorner was just three months old when she had her first open-heart surgery, Jensen said. The doctors at the time were hoping to be able to wait until she hit the six-month mark, but when she started having trouble breathing, they needed to operate. At 18, she had a second surgery to repair her heart defects.
“When she was born, they said most kids [with her conditions] didn’t make it to be a teenager,” Jensen said. “So that was a pretty big obstacle for her to even make it to her second surgery.”
As an adult, Jensen said, Beschorner was warned that having a baby could cause her to go into heart failure, but eventually the doctors relented and she gave birth to her daughter, Bristol.
The pregnancy went fine, Jensen said, but Beschorner did fall ill and went into heart failure for a few weeks after the birth.
“But then she was doing well and she’s done well all this time until like a month ago, when she started having troubles again,” Jensen said.
On Sept. 14, Beschorner posted on her public Facebook page that during a follow up appointment in Iowa City that day, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 heart failure and admitted to the cardiac unit. She wrote in the post that the pediatric cardiologist told her “if we were to send you home today, it would be a death sentence.”
One of her ventricles is pumping blood to her body instead of her lungs and has a significantly decreased “output,” causing fluid to collect in her chest cavity, Beschorner wrote. On top of that, her upper atriums, or chambers, are pumping faster than the bottom chambers, causing irregular heartbeats. This puts her at risk for major organs to start shutting down due to not getting enough blood, she said.
Throughout the last week, Beschorner’s team of physicians have been working to manage her heart function with IV meds and on Tuesday, she had surgery to implant a pacemaker and internal defibrillator. The device, along with medication, will help prolong her heart’s function before they take the next step. Eventually, Jensen said, Beschorner will need a heart transplant.
It’s been hard for Beschorner to be away from home and her family, Jensen said. On Sunday, Beschorner’s husband, Ben, and 8-year-old daughter Bristol were able to travel to Iowa City and visit, along with Beschorner’s sister, Heidi McGuire.
“Hugs from Bristol mean everything to me and you just can’t get that from video chat,” Beschorner wrote following the family visit.
Technology has also allowed the 43-year-old mother to still be there for her daughter’s activities this week. When Bristol had volleyball games, friends and family streamed video of the matches for Beschorner to watch live. But she plans to be back in the stands cheering for her daughter at the next game.
On Thursday night, Jensen said that if Beschorner’s EKGs look good this morning, she’ll be able to go home today. But she said it’s been difficult because with all of the physicians caring for Beschorner, they all have different ideas of what “OK to go home” means, so they’ve all been giving different timelines for when to expect to be discharged.
“You just don’t know for sure until they finally get it all put together,” Jensen said.
Once Beschorner returns home, she’ll need to continue traveling back and forth from Iowa City for appointments, tests and treatments. A crowdfunding campaign has been set up on AngeLink to help take the financial strain off the family as they travel to appointments and visit Beschorner when she’s receiving inpatient care. The fundraiser can be found online at https://shorturl.at/rtzMP.