Hilliard Woman Receives Open Heart Surgery While Pregnant - NBC4: Columbus, Ohio News, Weather, and Sports (WCMH-TV)

Hilliard Woman Receives Open Heart Surgery While Pregnant

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Doctors say they are seeing more cases of heart disease than ever before. 

Hilliard resident Nikki Westphal underwent open heart surgery while four months pregnant.

"Everyone was saying was you could always have another baby, but I didn't want that. I wanted this baby."

Nikki and 6-week-old Conor have a special bond. Not just as mother and son - but as survivors.

Nikki was born with aortic stenosis, which is a heart defect. She always knew she would need surgery to fix it, but the timing couldn't have been worse.

"I was getting ready for surgery when I was 34, and that's when I found out that I was pregnant," says Westphal. "They said that the surgery couldn't wait and that I wouldn't make it through the whole pregnancy."

Dr. Curt Daniels heads up the team that performed open heart surgery on Nikki at The Ohio State University's Ross Heart Hospital. It's a serious procedure on anyone, let alone a woman who was four months pregnant.

While the risk to Nikki didn't increase because of her pregnancy, it increased Conor's chances of dying by 30 percent.

Nikki is among a growing group of women living with heart disease.

Dr. Daniels says there the numbers are rising for two reasons. One, is that women are waiting longer to have families, and others who were born with heart disease are surviving at a much greater rate. Nikki falls under both categories.

Dr. Daniel advises, "For women who are somewhat older and contemplating pregnancy, I would say if you have any symptoms whatsoever or risks for heart disease it would be important to discuss with your doctor that potential risk. Is it safe to become pregnant, not only from an age standpoint, but from a heart standpoint?"

No matter the risk, Nikki is glad she pushed; and from the looks of it, so is Conor.

"It'll be a great story for him for his whole life and he'll always know how much he was wanted."    

Nikki says, because of the risk, they didn't want to know the sex of the baby before surgery, so the doctor wrote it on a piece paper for a nurse to hold onto until after it was over. She revealed the news immediately after they knew the baby was safe.

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