Ms Angelique Schoeber, with her husband Marc Voss, who is carrying their newborn daughter Kyra. In the background, is Ms Schoeber's father Leo Schoeber, 62. -- ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

A week after a Dutch woman gave birth to her third child in Singapore, she suffered a sudden heart attack while breastfeeding the newborn in her hotel room.

Ms Angelique Schoeber's husband rushed her to hospital in a taxi where doctors managed to save her life by implanting a mechanical heart.

Half an hour later, and doctors said she would have died.

Now, a month on, Ms Schoeber, 37, is in stable condition and will return to the Netherlands today.

There, she will continue her treatment and wait in line for a heart transplant. She expects that it would take at least 11/2 years before she gets one.

She said: 'I never had any heart condition, so I never expected myself to have a heart attack... This has turned my life upside down.'

Ms Schoeber has had to resign from her job as a director of a renewable energy company in Vietnam and give up her favourite activities such as swimming and scuba diving.

She had been working in Vietnam for the last nine years but decided to come to Singapore to give birth to her third child because of the Republic's established health-care system.

Recalling the moment the attack struck her, Ms Schoeber said she felt a severe pressure in her head and chest and a tingling sensation in her left arm.

Her husband, Mr Marc Voss, 39, rushed her to the Singapore General Hospital in a taxi.

Initially, she was well enough to get changed on her own, she said, but when she got to the hospital, she was not able to get out of the taxi unaided.

Ms Schoeber, who also has two sons, aged four and six, born in her home country, is just glad to be alive, although she now has to be diligent in charging the battery pack of her artificial heart at least once a day and keep it dry at all times.

She admitted sheepishly that they had left their newborn girl in the hotel room in the rush to get to the hospital. When they were on the way, her husband asked her what they should do about the baby, but she said that they should be back to the hotel soon.

'I thought we would be back that night, but it turns out, it wasn't so soon after all,' she said.

When they realised that she was not going to be discharged so soon, they got hospital staff to help them take the baby to the hospital. The baby had been alone for about four to five hours.

Ms Schoeber's attack was caused by a rare heart condition known as spontaneous coronary artery dissection, which means the inner lining of her coronary arterial wall was torn.

Dr Stanley Chia, a consultant at the National Heart Centre Singapore's cardiology department who operated on Ms Schoeber, performed a coronary angioplasty to open her blocked arteries and improve the blood flow to the heart.

After nine days, her heart still was not able to function on its own without life support machines, so doctors implanted a mechanical heart into her.

This artificial 'heart', which has been used on only six other patients in Singapore, helps to pump blood around the body and buys time for patients while they wait for a heart transplant.

Ms Schoeber's condition stabilised after two weeks.

This condition is very rare worldwide, with only about one such case in every 1,000 cases of heart attacks, said Dr Chia. It is even rarer for it to occur after childbirth, with about one out of several thousand cases, he added.

While her doctors cannot ascertain the cause of her heart attack, they believe it could be associated with sudden hormonal changes in her after the childbirth. 

Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction.