A revolutionary heart valve surgery saved the life of a Portland woman and her baby, thanks to the doctors at Providence heart and vascular institute.

Katie Dickens, 23, was born with an abnormal heart valve, and when she got pregnant, the effects became life threatening. She became short of breath with even small exertion.

“It was like being heavily pregnant, halfway through (the pregnancy)” Dickens said, according to KGW news.

Dickens’ options were limited: either face open-heart surgery or a novel new procedure.

“One alternative for Katie would have been to do open heart surgery,” said Dr. Jeffrey Swanson, “but there would have been a substantial menace to her fetus, to this beautiful baby.”

To perform open heart surgery on a pregnant woman means hooking the mother up to a heart and lung machine, with often deadly results for the unborn child.

According to Dr. Swanson, about 20 percent of unborn children die when hooked up to a heart and lung machine.

After consulting with doctors across the United States, Europe, and Canada, the team at Providence decided to use an innovative technique that requires minimal invasion. Instead of opening up Dicken’s chest to replace her heart valve, they instead threaded the valve through her femoral artery using an incision in her leg.

It was the first time the procedure had been performed on a pregnant woman.

“I can think about having more children in the future and I don’t’ have to worry about it,” Dickens said.

Her Baby, Natalia Jenina, was born on May 12th.

“She’s perfect” Dickens said.  “There’s nothing more I could ask for.”

Emily Abbey is a Salem based student and writer. She loves cooking, coffee, and anything to do with the Pacific Northwest. She hopes to become a teacher, influencing students to write and make a difference in their corner of the world.