Pregnancy and heart disease: Making the impossible possible

Doctors advised Marfan Syndrome patient to adopt


Cardiologists advised Susan Deming to avoid pregnancy because of a weak heart muscle due to a connective tissue disorder known as Marfan Syndrome.

When she was just 17 years old, Susan Deming of Highland, Michigan was advised by cardiologists not to have children. Deming had a condition known as Marfan Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder that meant she would have cardiomyopathy, a weak heart muscle. The risks included her aorta not being able to handle extra blood flow during pregnancy which could lead to an aneurysm causing death.

“At the time, I was young, shocked and didn’t ask questions,” says Deming, who stopped going to the doctor after that appointment.

At age 25, Deming and her husband wanted to start a family. They went to a different cardiologist at another facility hoping for a better outcome. The physician provided a similar outlook and advised the couple to adopt. Deming and her husband eventually adopted two children.

However, at age 30 Deming became pregnant. Her happiness soon became fear as many hospitals would not take her case and some even advised her to terminate the pregnancy. Deming refused and wanted to seek other advice. She was referred to an area dedicated to high risk pregnancies at the University of Michigan Health System, which had experience with pregnancy and heart disease. Here she met with Claire Duvernoy, M.D., a cardiologist who monitored her pregnancy very closely.

“The University of Michigan was so different from all the other health systems and cardiologists I had experienced,” says Deming. “Instead of telling me I shouldn’t do something because they were uncertain of the risks and didn’t want to take any, they worked with me to figure out what I wanted and how they could make it happen.”

The pregnancy was going smoothly and Deming’s dreams were coming true. But six weeks before her due date, doctors had to perform an emergency Caesarean when Deming’s heart function weakened. Despite the complications, she gave birth to her son Michael on July 18, 2006.

“My pregnancy and the birth of my son were the most wonderful times of my life and I am so grateful to the U-M Health System, the High Risk Pregnancy Clinic and Dr. Duvernoy who fulfilled every dream in my heart,” says Deming.

Today her son is 6 years old and healthy. Deming continues to see Dr. Duvernoy for regular checkups. She knows she is in good hands, she says.

“Every day that I watch my son grow, I thank U-M for not giving up on my case like everyone else wanted to. You guys made the impossible possible.”


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The University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is the top ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at umcvc.org.