New Jersey mom with rare heart condition to go home to her son after life-saving transplant

Joseph Zion Griffith will celebrate his first birthday on February 1, and he will receive the best present he could ever have.

Toni Yates Image
Wednesday, January 31, 2024
Mother with rare heart condition set to go home after receiving lifesaving transplant
Toni Yates has more on the mother's journey.

NEWARK, New Jersey -- The past year has been a nightmare for a first-time mother from New Jersey, who has had several heart-related emergencies after giving birth.

But thanks to a life-saving heart transplant, she's finally going home to her son.

Joseph Zion Griffith will celebrate his first birthday on February 1, and he will receive the best present he could ever have.

His mom will finally be released from the hospital, for the first time in over two months!

"It's been the hardest. He's so young," said heart transplant survivor Naiya Atkins.

Atkins has been in Newark Beth Israel Medical Center's advanced heart failure treatment and transplant program's medical wing since November 30.

She's a second-grade teacher and a new mom. Her doctor called her at work that day and told her that tests revealed her heart was failing, and to head straight to the hospital.

There was nothing in Atkins' medical history that suggested she had heart issues. She gave birth to Joseph with no issues and went home.

"Seventeen days later I felt lightheaded. Hot and cold, you know I'm attributing it to being a new mom," Atkins recalled.

It turns out, she had a rare heart condition called Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection, or SCAD.

"The artery spontaneously dissects or tears apart, and when that happens, the amount of blood flowing through there reduces drastically," explained cardiologist Dr. Fazal Ali.

Atkins was in and out of the hospital after her son's birth as doctors tried to save her heart.

Unfortunately, doctors could not save Atkins' heart.

She was admitted on November 30, and on January 6, she got a new heart.

"I couldn't believe it. I had only been on the list for less than three weeks," Atkins said.

Her husband Tristan has been at home raising Joseph.

Now, he's overjoyed to have his wife and the mother of his child at home.

"You live your life a certain way and you think you have it figured out, and then things happen and it's like, that's the love of my life. My soulmate," Tristan Griffith said.

Atkins had zero symptoms all her life, she said, until one day they showed up.

Dr. Ali says that's why prenatal care is so important, and so is knowing the signs of a heart attack in women.

"Abdominal pain, it could be shortness of breath, which would be a common one, it could be palpitations, and sometimes women like Naiya don't experience palpitations but instead they feel lightheaded or dizzy, and that could be the heart working harder or strained," Dr. Ali said.

Fortunately, it was caught in time, and life will move forward for the young family.

"I made it through," Atkins said.