Sana's birth story: Experts treat congenital heart disease during and after pregnancy

Sana Khan and her husband, Junaid Fahmi, with their daughter, Aroush, and son, Anzer
Sana Khan and her husband, Junaid Fahmi, with their daughter, Aroush, and son, Anzer.

For someone who had a hole in her heart, Sana Khan has always had a lot of love to give.

A large portion is heaped on her two children, Aroush and Anzer. Translated from Arabic, both names mean “angel from heaven.” And in many ways, both children seem like miracles.

After losing her first child, Maaz, to a rare genetic disease just 52 days after delivery in 2005, Khan was hesitant to try and conceive again. But almost four years ago, she and her husband, Junaid, welcomed daughter Aroush. Last year, she became pregnant again. 

A regular visit with her primary care provider revealed the young mother had a heart murmur, which later tests would show was due to a hole in her heart called an atrial septal defect, or ASD, complicated by pulmonary hypertension. Initially, Khan was told she had about a 50-50 chance of surviving after the delivery.

Sana and Junaid sought a second opinion at the University of Chicago Medicine and were referred to Sarosh Rana, MD, an expert in high-risk obstetrics.

“Congenital heart diseases in pregnancy are rare,” Rana said. “You need a multidisciplinary team to bring a variety of expertise to the table and achieve the best possible outcomes for the mother and the baby.”

Khan underwent multiple procedures, including a cardiac catheterization, an ultrasound and an MRI of her heart to confirm the diagnosis. After carefully reviewing the case with the cardiac imaging, pulmonary hypertension and interventional cardiology teams, Rana determined that Khan could have a safe pregnancy and delivery. 

Rana and the team monitored Khan closely throughout her pregnancy, managing her medications and fluid volume and developing a plan for her recovery in the coronary care unit. The delivery team would include experts in obstetrical anesthesia as well as neonatal specialists from the Margaret M. and George A. Stephen Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Comer Children’s Hospital.

“I think Sana had a very good outcome because she was very involved in her own care,” Rana said. “She trusted the whole team. She also has a very supportive husband. They have a beautiful family dynamic.” 

On August 8, 2016, Rana performed a cesarean section and Anzer, a healthy baby boy, was born. Sana, Junaid and their care team were overjoyed.

“I love these doctors, and I love this hospital,” Khan said. 

In March, Khan had robotic cardiac surgery at UChicago Medicine to repair the hole in her heart. Three days later, she was back home with her family.

Mother and newborn baby skin to skin in the Family Birth Center

Family Birth Center

The Family Birth Center offers a customized birth experience in the comfort and privacy of our nurturing environment. Our team of experts support expectant mothers and families with compassion and respect through pregnancy, childbirth, bonding, breastfeeding and healing.

Learn More