Share on PinterestAfter giving birth to her second child, Zuleyma Santos was diagnosed with a rare form of heart failure and placed on the waitlist for a heart transplant. Photography courtesy of Padilla Co
Mother of two, Zuleyma Santos, is working with the American Heart Association to raise awareness about the dangers of heart disease in younger adults.
On paper, you’d think Zuleyma Santos, now age 37, had it all.
Two new children born in as many years. A career in retail she loved. A dedicated and loving husband who despite having cancer was always there for her and a huge, nearby, and supportive family.
It should have been the time of her life.
But within those happenings came a blockbuster: Santos developed a rare and often deadly heart ailment caused by pregnancy.
That’s why today she smiles as she adjusts the always-there backpack on her shoulder that holds 10 pounds of batteries, constantly at work to keep the device that keeps her heart pumping in action as she awaits a heart transplant.
While there were signs — and a diagnosis — after her second child was born in 2019, no one picked up on the seriousness of the situation, and Santos, immersed in beginning her life as a parent as well as focusing on her husband’s cancer treatments, didn’t push.
“I feel there were symptoms that were unanswered,” she told Healthline. “I’ve always been a strong individual. You’ll never hear me say ‘oh I’m hurting.’ That’s just not me.
That “get to it” attitude could have proven fatal with the birth of her second child.
But it’s also launched her into a space she never thought she’d be in — spokesperson for the American Heart Association.
“I felt I needed a way to reach people. To help them know to speak up for themselves.”
“I never thought I’d have heart failure, or my partner would have cancer, at least not when our kids are babies with dirty diapers running around between my hospital bed. But here I am. And if I can be the voice they hear — to know there are resources out there — then so be it.”
Santos was holding her then two-day-old baby in the hospital when suddenly, she could barely breathe.
“I called the nurse and said ‘hold the baby, something’s wrong with me!” she remembered. “I could not breathe and thought I …….