September 24, 2017 was supposed to be a joyous day full of celebration of life and love. I was due with our third child, and we were expecting another uneventful, easy delivery. However, things quickly and unexpectedly turned very bad.
On September 23, 2017, I was admitted to North WakeMed for high blood pressure and Pitocin was started to try to jump start my very slow-going labor. I was nine days late and ready to meet our Charlie. Things were moving along steadily and overnight my blood pressure came down to a nice normal number and I was able to resume my normal labor activities. Mid-morning, the doctor came in and checked progress only to find that sadly, not much had happened. He broke the membranes, which for me was routine with both babies before, and that brought on a pretty intense, hard contraction. I requested laughing gas for the pain and on first inhale the world started to go black. I have a vague recollection of climbing onto the bed and then all goes dark.
My husband and mother said I immediately started turning blue, first my toes, then my feet, then the blueness quickly consumed my whole body. My mom says she was certain she watched me die. Charlie’s heart rate dropped, and we were quickly rushed into the operating room. CPR was initiated while the doctor did an emergency c-section. Thanks to the quick response by anesthesia, the doctors and nurses, my heart restarted, my oxygen level stabilized, and Charlie was breathing. But it wasn’t over.
What I was experiencing is a rare, life-threatening condition called an Amniotic Fluid Embolism. This happens during labor or sometimes immediately after delivery. There are no known risk factors, and it has about a 40-50% mortality rate. The amniotic fluid mixes with the mother’s bloodstream causing immediate cardiac and respiratory distress. If the mother survives this phase, phase two brings on a whole new set of challenges. Back to my story.
The doctor stepped out of the OR once he had me stabilized enough, but the alarms went off again and the nurse stepped out urgently requesting he return to my bedside. I had entered phase 2, DIC. DIC is disseminated intravascular coagulopathy. Basically, your blood clots where it shouldn’t and doesn’t clot where it should. So suddenly I am pouring blood from my c-section incision and from anywhere else that has an opening in my body.
The care team initiated the emergency blood protocol, and I quickly used all eight units of blood WakeMed North had on hand. My doctor called WakeMed (big Wake) and had multiple units of blood rushed via police escorted ambulance to WakeMed North to try to keep me alive. Plans were made to transfer me to big Wake for another surgery and the critical care team loaded me into their ambulance. My nurse later told me she had never seen so much blood in her entire 18-year career and that she did not expect me to survive. But thanks to the quick response, recognition and proper treatment of the AFE and the access to a plentiful blood supply, I did survive.
It took 27 units of blood to replace all I lost that day. 27 units. Over 50 people had to donate blood to save my life that day.
I share this story with you all as a message of encouragement to donate blood. Blood cannot be made in a lab, it’s human to human only and therefore we are the only ones who can save another human when blood is required. Everyday someone needs a blood transfusion, and right now in our community we are facing a possible shortage due to lower donor turnout. Currently our local hospitals require 1000 units a day to maintain a good supply. On January 31, 2023 we will host our first of many blood drives at Blackbird Brewery. The Blood Connection bus will be on site from 3-8 pm and will offer a $20 e gift card to all donors. In addition, we will give a $5 Blackbird Brewery gift card to all donors. All it takes is 30 minutes and you can save someone’s life. Someone took 30 minutes and saved mine. Let’s come together on the 31st to collect at least the 27 units I needed plus some. Our goal is 37 successful donors, can you help us beat that number?
Sign up today: https://donate.thebloodconnection.org/donor/schedules/drive_schedule/205306
To learn more about The Blood Connection visit thebloodconnection.org. Can’t donate on the 31st? Sign up for one of their other various community drives or head over to their office on Glenwood Ave. Or, host your own drive! Reach out to me if you have any questions. I have organized multiple drives now and it’s super easy. Also feel free to share my story with others. The more people who turn out to donate, the more lives we save.
Here’s to a healthy new year and the start of many life saving endeavors!