Woman Missing Part of Heart Defies Pregnancy Odds

After 9 months of bed rest, new mom Shanelle Ragin, baby survived childbirth

By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 17, 2014 8:22 AM CDT | Updated Jul 17, 2014 8:32 AM CDT

(Newser) – After surviving major heart surgery at one day old, spending a lifetime taking medication, and losing her breath just going up the stairs, Shanelle Ragin has survived both pregnancy and childbirth and is now the proud mother of a healthy baby boy with a healthy little heart. When the Maryland woman became pregnant unexpectedly, her doctors warned that she might not survive the pregnancy or the stress of labor due to a rare congenital heart defect that left her with only one ventricle in her heart. Though she underwent what's known as a Fontan procedure as a newborn, only one of her heart's chambers pumps blood, and as the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions explains, that chamber "must be strong enough to pull blood that is passively moving through the lungs into the heart and then pump it out to the body."

Ragin and her doctors agreed to do everything they could to minimize heart stress, including nine months of bed rest and constant monitoring. She went on to deliver baby Carter Ragin with the aid of almost a dozen doctors and nurses. "It was somewhat of a gamble on her part and on our part," her OB/GYN tells NBC Washington. Though Carter weighed just over 5 pounds at birth, he was healthy, including his heart. "I felt really proud of Shanelle," Ragin's doctor adds. "I think in a way, having a baby, a healthy beautiful baby like Carter, is an affirming part that you are a normal woman." Carter is now 2 months old and thriving, and Ragin describes herself as "thankful" and "really happy." (Check out what this mom went through immediately after giving birth.)

Carter Ragin was born with a healthy heart.
Carter Ragin was born with a healthy heart.   (Shutterstock)
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