A doctor in her final month of pregnancy with her third child was unwittingly suffering from a rare complication of pregnancy called peripartum cardiomyopathy, or PPCM. It's a form of heart failure that weakens the heart chambers and, in the most serious cases, can be fatal, explains the Houston Chronicle. So when Alexander Hicks heard a thump from upstairs while his 33-year-old wife, Marlene Dominguez-Hicks, was napping with their 5-year-old daughter and baby girl, he ran up to see if the older child had jumped out of bed. Instead, he found was his wife unconscious on the floor. Despite swift action from paramedics and an emergency C-section to try to save the unborn child, both died, and mother and son were buried together.
That was in early September. Now, Hicks says, he's planning to visit with Dominguez-Hicks' obstetrician to try to better understand what happened to his wife, though much about the disease—including whether there might be a genetic component—remains unclear. An American Heart Association fact sheet says only about 1,000 women suffer from PPCM each year, generally in the last month of pregnancy or in the first five months after giving birth. Symptoms include a racing heart and swelling ankles. Friends have started a GoFundMe page to help the family cover long-term expenses, and it's pulled in about $84,000 so far. "This has been an unbearable time for our family and we will not get through this without your strength and love," Hicks wrote to supporters. (This unborn baby survived his mother's death in a car crash.)