Get Connected
  • facebook
  • twitter

Woman has heartfelt visit with CAMC doctors who saved her life

By Candace Nelson

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - When a person's heart pumps as little blood as Alicia Petry's did in the final days of her pregnancy -- at just about five percent -- it's rare he or she will survive.

For a few days leading up to her emergency cesarean section, Petry, 22, of the Boone County community of Comfort, felt short of breath. She told her mother she needed to go to the emergency room when it became too much.

"I remember getting out of the car and getting into the wheelchair," she said. "I was going down the hallway saying 'Baby time! Baby time,' but that's all I remember.

"And the next thing I know, I wake up in Cleveland. My belly is flat. I didn't know where my baby was, and I was freaking out.

"They had to bring him to me to calm me down; I got to meet him when he was 2 months old.

"I was in a coma for two months before I got to see him. When I saw him, I was crying ... hard."

Petry's foggy memory doesn't recall entering the triage, when nurses noticed something was wrong and called Dr. Stephen Bush, a West Virginia University/Charleston Area Medical Center Ob/Gyn.

Bush and his medical team helped save Petry and her baby's life -- at 35 weeks -- when she went into cardiac arrest.

"Because she was short of breath, the baby wasn't getting enough oxygen either, so the baby was in distress and we had to deliver, so we did an emergency C-section," Bush said. "It was the fastest one I've ever done. In 10 minutes, she was delivered and closed."

During the C-section, doctors discovered she wasn't having any heart function. A team worked with her for nearly two hours before she was stable enough to transport to CAMC Memorial for a balloon pump to help control her heart.

Once she was stabilized at Memorial, she was sent to the Cleveland Clinic, where she was equipped with a pump to help her heart until it re-establishes its strength.

"We initially thought she was going to need a heart transplant, with her heart function -- measured by an ejection fraction -- was just five percent, which means she's not moving any blood at all," Bush said.

"It's so rare for someone of that low of an ejection fraction to survive something like this."

Petry was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy onset from her pregnancy. Typically, it happens post-partum and can cause death. It's more rare during actual pregnancy, Bush said.

Petry visited the hospital Tuesday and met, for the first time, the doctors who helped save her life and deliver her son, Easton.

A roomful of nurses and doctors shared their stories of helping her.

One nurse said she never expected to see her again.

The anesthesiologist, Alvin Castillo, said, "I was the one who called your parents in. I said this is the last time you'll get to see your daughter alive. I called everybody in.

"I said call them all in, call them all in. And wow, my goodness."

Petry hopes her heart will slowly build back up to where she doesn't need assistance or a heart transplant. And she owes her life -- and her son's -- to those people standing in that room.

"It takes a team," she said. "A person's life is important, and it takes a real good team to realize that, and they didn't give up on me either. It paid off."

Contact writer Candace Nelson at or 304-348-5148. Follow her at


User Comments