HOW TO HELP
To help with medical and living expenses, send donations in care of Miracle McIntosh to Combustion Credit Union or call 423-305-1725.
In the United States, postpartum cardiomyopathy complicates 1 in every 1,300 to 4,000 deliveries. It may occur in childbearing women of any age, but it is most common after age 30.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine
Her doctor told her to abort her second pregnancy so she could receive treatment for her heart.
But the 32-year-old mother refused, carried the child full-term and delivered a healthy baby she named Zoei.
In what seems like foreshadowing, the mother's first name is Miracle.
"I felt like God didn't bless me with a baby to abort her," said Miracle McIntosh.
McIntosh was diagnosed with postpartum cardiomyopathy in 2008 while carrying Zoei. It is a rare disorder in which a weakened heart is diagnosed within the final month of pregnancy or within five months after delivery, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine's website.
In November, three years after giving birth and being under constant physician care, McIntosh got a heart transplant at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She had a belated holiday on Friday, opening Christmas presents at home with her children for the first time in two years. It was her first time back in Chattanooga since her transplant.
"Mama got her heart; Mama got her heart," 3-year-old Zoei Granger sang after opening gifts.
Zoei's brother, Malachi Granger, 9, talked about the family playing together at the park.
By the time she delivered Zoei, McIntosh's heart was badly weakened. She spent the next three years traveling to doctors at the University of Alabama Hospital in Birmingham and at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, who she said kept her alive.
By December 2010, her health had deteriorated so much, doctors didn't expect her to live.
"In October 2010, I caught pneumonia. I turned around in December and caught strep and then I turned around and had bronchitis infection," McIntosh said. "So in December I went into renal failure. And doctors weren't giving me 24 hours."
Doctors at UAB Hospital bought her time by installing a mechanical heart pump, but it was still a rough year until she learned she was going to have a transplant, she said.
She went home and tried to be a mother to her children, she said, but "I couldn't walk from my room to the front door. I couldn't breathe."
A week before Thanksgiving, she got a call from Vanderbilt, telling her she had a matching heart. The transplant surgery took 13 hours, but the hardship was worth the journey, she said.
"I am so blessed and grateful that I'm able to be here," said McIntosh. "This has made me a better mom, a better person and my faith is just stronger."
McIntosh's mother, Patricia McIntosh, said she can't stop thanking God for her daughter's life.
"Blessed and highly favored," Patricia McIntosh said. "I don't mean to get religion on you, but that's just how I feel. God has been good to us."
Patricia McIntosh will help care for her daughter's two children as Miracle McIntosh continues her medical care.
She will have to return to Vanderbilt every two weeks for doctors to check her progress with her new heart. If all goes well, the visits will be reduced to once a month, she said.
When her friend Alysha Moore heard that McIntosh was home after her heart transplant, she started gathering dozens of Christmas gifts that had been given to the McIntosh family by churches, businesses, hospitals and organizations.
"She's a little nervous because she's not as close to the hospital in case something happens," said Moore. But her friend should "do well."
"She is determined and she has her faith in God. It's not in her hands anymore."
Miracle McIntosh is on disability and can no longer work at the job she had held for five years at United Parcel Service. Her new plans are to enroll in nursing school and be an advocate for organ donation.
"You have babies who need organs and they're dying and you can save so many lives with one person," she said. "Even I wasn't an organ donor before I got sick, not that I'm selfish. I just didn't think about it."
Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at email@example.com or 423-757-6431.