Anissa Swanigan was living her best life at 37 years old and was ready for motherhood when she was diagnosed with heart disease.
"My first pregnancy, that's when I found out I had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy," Swanigan said.
It is a hereditary condition that makes it hard for the heart to pump blood.
It often goes undiagnosed.
Most people with the condition are asymptomatic, but for some, it can cause shortness of breath, chest pain, or abnormal heart rhythms.
Swanigan's doctors originally attributed her symptoms to stress following the death of her mother, who also suffered from heart disease.
She would later visit a Memphis cardiologist.
"He suggested that I should go to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota," she explained. "When I got there, that's when they told me that I needed a heart, lung, and liver transplant."
There she underwent an unprecedented procedure.
"They had to put the liver in first and then the heart, and I was the second person in the world they did that procedure on."
During her heart battle she said hope kept her healthy enough to push forward.
"The spiritual side--I wanted to keep fighting on and to live to raise my children," she said.
She is now a single mom with two boys. Her eldest carries the gene for heart disease.
"It was detected early on with him, so I have to get him checked out at least once a year."
Early detection through testing and research can save lives.
Swanigan now volunteers with the American Heart Association, working to raise awareness.
She hopes her story will encourage others not to ignore the signs.
"Don't take things for granted. If you feel something, get it checked out," she said.
Copyright 2016 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.
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