CAMBRIDGE, Wis. (WFRV) – A new mom is extra grateful this Mother’s Day because she survived a heart transplant just weeks after giving birth.

“I’ve always been healthy,” said Susan Siegenthaler, 38. “I’ve never even had an EKG before all of this, and they told me my heart was only working at a 5% rate. I was in heart failure. It was shocking.”

Doctors diagnosed her with heart failure while she was 7 and a half months pregnant.

According to UW Health, she survived a C-section and a heart transplant, all in 8 weeks between December 2022 and February of 2023.

She says the team of 30 doctors and medical professionals from UW Health never gave up in the face of constant medical challenges.

Her bundle of joy was three pounds at birth, but now little “Stevie” is a happy, smiling, and healthy baby.

“It was incredible,” Siegenthaler recalled. “She was teeny tiny. I always tried to imagine what she would look like, and it was better than I ever imagined!”

The hardest part was the separation after birth, a time when mommy and daddy wanted to snuggle with their newborn. Dad Kiel came down with COVID-19, which added to the isolation.

As you can imagine, they are making the most of this first Mother’s Day holiday.

Cardiologist Mary Jonson from UW Health says this was a unique situation given the pregnancy. She said she knows Siegenthaler was shocked by the diagnosis, but it does happen. She says many times, added stress from a situation like pregnancy can lead to symptoms of heart failure that are mistaken for pregnancy symptoms.

In this case, Siegenthaler had extreme swelling, trouble breathing and coughing.

“In her case, we’re suspicious that she had heart muscle dysfunction for some time,” explained Dr. Johnson. “It was just the pregnancy that made it become clinically apparent.”

Dr. Johnson says this serves as a message that we should be grateful for the donors that are out there.

“We couldn’t do what we do to help patients without our donor families.”