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Too Young for a Heart Attack
Twenty-seven, healthy, and pregnant—could it be a heart attack? When time mattered, and calamity threatened, God was there in every detail. You could say, it was a miracle.

It was a regular Sunday morning. My husband was in Edmonton on a business trip and I was getting ready for church. I glanced at the clock. 9:20 a.m. Just half an hour earlier, I had delivered blueberry pancakes to Mekiah, my four-year-old granddaughter. Kenda, my daughter, answered the door to receive the breakfast offering with a sleepy smile.

Too Young for a Heart Attack
Kenda and Aliyah
Photo courtesy of Julie Johnson,

Back at home, I was reaching for my skirt when the phone rang. It was Jason, Kenda's husband. "Kenda is having severe chest pains," he said evenly. "Can you drive her to emergency at Mac?" The McMaster University Medical Centre is three minutes from our house in Hamilton, Ontario. "I need to stay here with the kids," he added. "I think you should hurry."

My mind raced as I hung up the phone. "She can't be having a heart attack," I thought. "She's healthy and fit. Doesn't smoke. Doesn't drink. Eats right. She's only 27—and she's 14 weeks pregnant! What about the baby?" I shoved a leg into a pair of jeans and hopped back to the phone.

"Jason, tell her to take an Aspirin!" I panted. "On second thought, maybe she shouldn't because of the baby … "

"Never mind." This time his voice was tense. "Just hurry, please."

The camper was the first vehicle in the driveway. I grabbed the keys, flew out the door and drove around the block to their house. "Hurry, hurry!" my thoughts urged me.

When I arrived at the door, I saw Kenda in the living room. Her face was drawn and pasty white, her eyes pinched shut from lightheadedness. She lay sprawled on the couch, a hand pressed against her midriff. Jason helped her up and she teetered forward.

"Pick her up, Jason," I advised. "She won't make it down the stairs."

Kenda panted in shallow gasps as Jason deposited her in the passenger seat. It occurred to me that we might not make it to the hospital in time. Just then I felt the familiar, gentle presence of God's Spirit with us. I lay one hand on Kenda's arm and steered the camper with the other. I prayed, glancing alternately at her and at the road.

When we arrived at the hospital, an ambulance pulled into the spot next to me. In an instant I knew exactly what I should do and what would happen when I did it. I jumped out of the camper and spoke to the ambulance driver: "Do you have anyone in there?" I was surprised at the calmness in my voice.

"Yes. Why do you ask?" he replied.

"My daughter is having chest pains," I pointed at the camper.

Too Young for a Heart Attack
Recovery time: Kenda in the cardiac intensive care unit one
day after her heart attack.

The driver got out and walked over to see Kenda. He exchanged a few muffled words with her. She nodded and raised her head wearily. "Go get a chair," he told his attendant who had followed him.

Moments later the attendant rolled Kenda through the sliding doors, and I followed. Patients sat in chairs waiting. Others paced nervously in front of the admitting desk. But the attendant wheeled Kenda past everyone directly into the examining area. I trailed behind, feeling guilty for jumping the queue.

In the five minutes it took me to register her, Kenda was settled onto a stretcher and attached to a cardiac machine (ECG) that confirmed she was experiencing a heart attack.

"When did the pain start?" asked the nurse.

We looked at each other and shrugged. "Twenty minutes ago," she said.

"Impossible," countered the nurse flatly. "You couldn't have gotten here in that time." But by God's grace we had.

Later we understood just how significant the events surrounding Kenda's admission to the hospital had been. Several medical professionals, including a doctor and a paramedic, echoed the words of a nurse in the cardiac intensive care unit where Kenda was hooked to a wall of monitors for ten days: "It's a miracle," said the nurse. "If your daughter had signed in at admitting they would never have thought she was having a heart attack. They would have made her wait."

Thanks to the quick diagnosis, Kenda's heart suffered only slight damage. "Her ability to function won't be impaired," the cardiologist assured me. "If you were going to have a heart attack, you picked the best place in Canada. We specialize in pregnancy-related heart problems."

After her hospital stay, Kenda was ordered to rest. She moved into our house for four months, along with Jason, Mekiah, two-year-old Jada and Alaska the cat. For the sake of her recovery, Kenda wasn't permitted to lift the children, drive or undertake household tasks.

A few weeks later Kenda went for an ultrasound. It didn't look good. The baby had cysts on the brain and there appeared to be calcification in the heart—signs that the baby could have Down's syndrome or be stillborn. Our family and friends prayed. A call went out, and many churches joined in the prayer chain.

Amazingly, a few weeks later a second ultrasound showed that both the cysts and the calcification had disappeared. However, a new problem had arisen. The blood flow in the umbilical cord was restricted. The baby would not receive enough nutrition to grow to term and would need to be delivered at the end of the second trimester. "What is the chance that this will correct itself," Jason asked the doctor. None, he was assured.

Two weeks later Kenda returned to the hospital. "That's strange," said the doctor, comparing ultrasound images. "We had our best technician on the last ultrasound and I'm sure we didn't make a mistake, but the blood flow in the umbilical cord seems to be normal now. That just doesn't happen."

Too Young for a Heart Attack
Daina and baby Aliyah

Kenda was still deemed a high-risk delivery, but with the superb care of hospital staff, little Aliyah was born on March 6, 2003—a beautiful miracle baby. Kenda was induced three weeks early to avoid potential complications with a natural birth.

What caused a healthy 27-year-old to have a heart attack? Kenda had developed a blood clot that blocked the artery at the rear wall of her heart. Doctors remain puzzled that she should have clotted so severely given her medical history.

How do we explain the series of events that protected Kenda and her baby? God intervened. He responded to prayer with perfect timing, a word of knowledge and healing. Our whole family is more aware of God's immediate involvement in our lives.

"It drove home our frailty as human beings," says Kenda. "We never know when something can happen. It has affected my choices and the importance I place on relationships.

"During the ordeal, I felt so helpless and drained. I found it difficult to pray. It was important to me that others—even people I didn't know—were praying for me. God listened to their prayers."

Aliyah is now a happy two-year-old. "She represents God's faithfulness to me," says Kenda. "I am grateful for life, and for Aliyah's perfect health."

Since this article appeared in Faith and Friends, Daina and Kenda shared their story on Canada's national Christian television program, 100 Huntley Street.

Daina Doucet is a freelance writer and editor based in Hamilton, Ontario. She edits the website for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.

Originally published in Faith & Friends (slightly condensed version), May 2005.




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