NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – A heart transplant survivor has died just hours after giving birth to her first child.
Meg Johnson, 31, delivered her daughter, Eilee Kate, in Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville on Tuesday at 2.40am, with her husband Nathan at her side.
The birth was smooth, with no complications, and the couple sat together with their newborn for hours afterwards. They burped her, held her, and chatted – even posting a photo on Instagram.
But at around 9am, Meg’s condition spiraled, and within minutes doctors said they could not save her. She died before 10am.
Although Meg underwent a heart transplant seven years ago – after contracting myocarditis, a disease of inflamed heart muscles, as a teen – doctors said they do not believe this was the underlying factor in her death.
As medics race to confirm the cause, family and friends have rallied around baby Eilee and widowed Nathan, who is a freelance musician. By Thursday afternoon, a GoFundMe account that started with the aim of $40,000 had rocketed to more than $295,000.
Meanwhile the United Network for Organ Sharing said that Meg, a staunch proponent of organ donation, will save 50 lives and help two people to see via transplants.
Josh Wilson, one of Nathan’s best friends who started the fundraiser, told Daily Mail Online the community is in shock.
‘It was totally unexpected, I can’t stop crying. No one saw it coming,’ he said.
‘The pregnancy was tough, like all pregnancies. But their doctor had cleared them, said it was safe, and the birth was smooth. They even sat together for hours afterwards just talking and talking. They had no idea.’
Meg was 23 when she underwent a heart transplant in Ferguson, Missouri, where she is from.
She contracted a virus in 2002 at the age of 15 which led to myocarditis, a potentially fatal heart disease. After years on medication she was put on the transplant list.
Her case became critical in 2010, aged 23, when she caught pneumonia. Doctors told her family she needed to get the transplant within a week to survive. Within hours, an alert came through that a heart was available.
Meg met Nathan – known at ‘Nate’ to his friends – shortly afterwards, and they married in 2012, moving to Nashville, Tennessee, where Meg worked at Vanderbilt Medical Center and Nate produces music, occasionally touring with his friend Josh.
According to Josh, there were no signs of a premature or complicated birth.
‘Eilee’s due date was July 5,’ he said.
‘Nate and I played a show in Dallas on Sunday, then came back. They went into hospital on Monday for a check-up and doctors decided she should be induced. By Tuesday, Eilee was born at 2.40 in the morning. It all went smoothly.
‘They were just so happy. Eilee is so beautiful. Nate said they were just so happy and sat together talking and looking at Eilee for hours and hours. Everything was normal. All their family went home to rest.
‘Then between 9 and 10 she started having complications and the doctors rushed in and within about an hour she had passed.’
‘The funeral is on Sunday in St Louis. I think there’s going to be a lot of people, and very very emotional.
‘Meg was such a sweet person. She loved people. Most of all she loved Nate. They just loved each other so much. Their favorite thing to do was to spend time with each other, sitting and talking, or sitting and not talking… Just being together.
‘She grew up in St Louis, with a big community there. Her family was very active in the community and in the church. She was so loved.’
Josh explained that his main motivation for starting a GoFundMe page was to give Nate some financial support that would allow him to take some time off performing on the road.
Nate, a Christian musician who produces his own instrumental music, shared on his website MeaningMachineMusic.com, has experienced some success locally as a solo artist, but earns the bulk of his income by playing for other bands.
However, Josh said he was staggered by the speed at which the fundraiser took off, far surpassing his $40,000 aim.
‘I’ve had to start calling friends who know about large sums of money, because I don’t know what to do with this!’ he exclaimed. ‘Maybe it’s going to be enough to start a college fund for little Eilee. That would be amazing.’
Meg’s cause of death is not yet clear.
Women who have suffered myocarditis, as Meg did, are at high risk of peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM), an incredibly hard-to-spot and uncommon form of heart failure.
PPCM occurs during the last month of pregnancy or up to five months after giving birth.
Symptoms can be very similar to typical third-semester problems, making diagnosis difficult.
PPCM enlarges and weakens the heart chambers. This leads to less blood flow in the left ventricle and the heart can’t pump blood to vital organs.
The objective of PPCM treatment is to keep extra fluid from collecting in the lungs and to help the heart recover as fully as possible.
Physicians recommend that women avoid cigarettes and alcohol, eat a well-balanced diet and get regular exercise to maintain a healthy heart.
Women who develop PPCM are at high risk of developing the same condition with future pregnancies.
- To support Nate and Eilee, visit the family’s GoFundMe page by clicking here