My “Flu” Symptoms Almost Led to Heart Failure
For Jenny DeVoe, the fever, body aches, and nausea were symptoms of a life-threatening condition. Find out about this disorder that often strikes healthy people.
It has to be the flu, thought Jenny DeVoe, 37, of Edwardsburg, Michigan. It was a Thursday evening in January 2017 when DeVoe began running a fever; her body ached and she felt nauseated. A CVS Pharmacy shift supervisor, DeVoe was at work, so she powered through, thinking that she might have caught a virus from her kids over the holidays (she’s a single mother of two). Little did DeVoe realize that her life was hanging in the balance.
Courtesy Jenny DeVoe/Spectrum Health“I was tired and nauseated on that Thursday, but I thought it was a virus until Saturday morning,” DeVoe recalls. Her symptoms took a serious turn as she got ready for work that weekend. “I got up to shower and almost blacked out. I pushed through because I had to get ready for work.”
She didn’t get far: “After showering, I repeatedly had to sit down while brushing my hair because I was so weak. I still thought it was just a really bad virus.” DeVoe’s parents typically watched the children while she was at work. When her father walked in, he could tell something was really wrong. A former volunteer fireman, he suspected that his daughter was having a heart attack. “My dad was the one that saw the signs. I was too winded to walk to the car without taking breaks. Instead of taking me to urgent care, he drove me straight to the emergency room,” she says. (Watch out for these 7 signs that you might be headed for a heart attack.)
DeVoe passed out in her father’s arms as they walked through the ER parking lot. “The nurses said my heart rate was through the roof. It was so fast, it was as if I had just run a marathon,” she says. The small hospital stabilized DeVoe and then transferred her to the better-equipped Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
After doctors admitted DeVoe to the cardiac intensive care unit, they started her on a balloon pump to take the pressure off her heart. It didn’t help: DeVoe’s condition deteriorated rapidly overnight, and she was transferred again to an even larger hospital. “I knew I was getting worse. I was terribly nauseated and sweating profusely,” she says.
Upon arrival, DeVoe suddenly had a diagnosis and got a complete download of information about her condition. Doctors told her she had myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart that can be triggered by viral illness. It causes heart attack, abnormal heart rhythms, and sudden death—and it often strikes healthy people. (Check out these 10 ways to keep your heart valves healthy.)
“I remember the doctor asking me where I wanted to be when it was all over. All I could think about was being able to spend summers on the lake with my children, just as I had done as a child,” DeVoe says.
A heart biopsy confirmed the condition; the doctors gave DeVoe and her parents a few options for treatment. They settled on a heart pump, a tiny device inserted through her femoral artery that could allow her heart to rest and recover. “Right away I felt better,” DeVoe recalls. “I hadn’t eaten in a few days; in no time, I was sitting up in bed and enjoying my hospital sherbet.”
With renewed strength, she was able to walk the halls of the hospital. Soon, she moved from the cardiac intensive care to a regular room. Her doctors were able to remove the pump shortly after, and Devoe’s heart made a full recovery with no lasting complications. “My local cardiologist calls me the miracle lady—he’s never seen someone survive such a severe case,” she says. “My life is actually better now. I was knocking on death’s door, and now I cherish everything—the Sunday family dinners, all of it. I hug my children tighter, and I can’t imagine not being here.” Read about 7 supplements that heart doctors take every day.
- Myocarditis Foundation: "Discover Myocarditis Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment"