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Warrensburg mother advocating for mothers after suffering heart attack, losing child

Mary Whitaker shares her heart attack story
Posted at 5:52 PM, Apr 17, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Wednesday is the last day of Black Maternal Health Week, but one woman is hoping women can spread awareness beyond just one week.

Mary Whitaker, 37, has four healthy children, but in 2020 — a few weeks after she gave birth to her fourth kid — she suffered a heart attack.

"I was nauseous, shaky, like almost, like if you drink an energy drink or a coffee on an empty stomach you get kind of jittery," Whitaker said. "I wasn't clutching my chest or having really bad chest pains, it almost felt like indigestion or heartburn, you know."

It shocked her because it wasn't the normal symptoms of a heart attack that she's heard of. In fact, the American Heart Association said symptoms of heart attacks in men and women are different.

Additionally, the AMA says heart disease is the number one killer of new moms, but Whitaker never thought it'd be her. She said she never had issues during her past pregnancies.

A few months after her heart attack, Mary and her husband found out they were expecting, but because of her heart condition, they received difficult news from doctors that led to a painful choice.

Mary Whitaker (far right), her husband (far left), and her son (middle).

"The odds of survival for myself or the baby were low and they suggested we terminate," Whitaker said.

Whitaker said she's turning that pain into awareness, sharing her story so other women know they aren't alone.

Bigger than that, Whitaker's family decided to foster an eight month-old boy.

"I've really turned into the sorrow for the baby that I never got to meet and I just poured that extra love that I know that I have into the children that need it," Whitaker said.

She's at peace believing everything happens for a reason. Whitaker's journey through her heart attack led her to advocacy and a new member of the family.