Eight months into her pregnancy, Krystle Evans suffered two separate heart attacks, despite not having any family history of cardiovascular disease.
In early October — just a few weeks before Evans gave birth to her twins — the soon-to-be mother of four had trouble breathing while experiencing an intense pressure in her chest. Nearly 20 minutes later, the episode had passed and the Dallas resident assumed her twins were just putting pressure on her ribs in the womb.
“I honestly felt my twins were just in a place where they were sitting on my ribs and causing me to lose my breath,” she told NBC affiliate KXAS.
However, the next day it happened again and her symptoms became worse, the 30-year-old told Today.
“I started getting very nauseated. Then my whole left arm went numb,” Evans told Today. “I was in a whole bunch of pain. My husband said, ‘You need to call the doctor and let him know what’s going on.’ “
Sure enough, she was told to head to the emergency room, where doctors later told her she had survived two separate heart attacks.
“I’m very healthy, my family has no history of cardiovascular disease or heart attacks, so this was a big surprise,” she said of learning the news.
Doctors wanted to make sure she and the babies were safe, so Evans was kept at Medical City McKinney in McKinney, Texas, for two weeks for close monitoring.
She gave birth to a boy and girl on Oct. 21 at 34 weeks. Shiloh weighed 5 lbs., 3 oz., while Sage weighed 5 lbs., 1 oz., the mom told Today.
While the babies were still being held in the neonatal intensive care unit as of Monday, Evans said they were doing well. Meanwhile, Evans is recovering at home with her husband and two other children, a 7-year-old daughter and 2 year-old son.
According to both KXAS and Today, doctors believe that her heart attacks were a result of her twins putting extra stress on Evans’ heart, requiring it to work harder than in a typical pregnancy.
“Pregnancy is a natural stress test,” Dr. James Martin, chairman of American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ Pregnancy and Heart Disease Task Force, told Today. “The cardiovascular system must undergo major changes to its structure to sustain tremendous increases in blood volume.”
According to the ACOG, heart disease is now the leading cause of death in pregnancy and during postpartum in the Unites States — and the risk of a heart attack has been a rising danger for pregnant women in recent years.
Dr. Jerry Luciani, Evans’ OB/GYN, wanted to reassure pregnant women that this is still “an extremely rare event,” and encouraged them to “pay attention to symptoms like chest pain and tightness and numbness in your arm,” he told KXAS.
Similarly, Evans hopes that by sharing her story, other women feel prepared to look out for their own symptoms and reach out to their doctors with questions or concerns.
“Stay in tune with your body and listen to your gut,” she said. “And stay positive. That made a big difference in my recovery.”