Newark Beth Israel Medical Center recently celebrated the discharge of a heart transplant patient who survived three different heart conditions in one year and was released just in time for her son’s 1st birthday Feb. 1.
Naiya Atkins, a 37-year-old first-time mom, is a success story and a reminder during this American Heart month that heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for women and can strike at any moment, even during pregnancy.
Seventeen days after giving birth, Atkins had a heart attack, followed by a cardiac arrest and later heart failure. Atkins spent the first year of her son’s life in and out of the hospital fighting for her own life.
It all started on Feb. 18, 2023, when Atkins began experiencing severe dizziness and nausea. Although she felt no chest pain, her mom called an ambulance. Towards the end of her pregnancy, and since giving birth to her son, Atkins was having trouble controlling her blood pressure. She was rushed to Newark Beth Israel. She was having a heart attack. The interventional cardiology team, led by Dr. Chirag Patel, diagnosed her with a rare condition, Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection; her artery walls were spontaneously tearing, blocking blood flow to the heart.
Doctors removed the blockages to her heart and gave her medications. She was taken to the ICU, but, within an hour, Atkins went into cardiac arrest. She was immediately resuscitated, but her heart would never be the same. It was failing.
Dr. Fazal Ali, an advanced heart failure specialist, and the Advanced Heart Failure Treatment and Transplant team, implanted a balloon pump and placed Atkins on intravenous medications, but her heart was operating at only 15%, and, by September, her other organs were beginning to fail. Atkins’ only option was a heart transplant.
She was admitted to the hospital in November and soon after was placed on the waiting list for a transplant. She spent the holidays in the hospital, away from her family and her newborn, Joseph “JoJo.”
On Jan. 5, she got the call, and, on Jan. 6, Dr. Margarita Camacho, surgical director of heart transplant at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, performed a life-saving heart transplant on Atkins.
Atkins said she feels like a walking miracle and is blessed to be surrounded by all the doctors, nurses and medical staff who have been with her every step of the way from the time she gave birth to her son at Newark Beth Israel until now, when she will be able to walk out of the hospital with her new heart.