It was February 14, 2018 – Valentine’s Day – one year ago – when my husband and I went in for a scheduled induction for our first child. We celebrated with a romantic dinner before settling into our hospital room at Overland Park Regional Medical Center. We were over the moon excited, texting goofy selfies to our parents asking for guesses on the birth time. We were ready. We read the books, we had the supplies, and we took the classes. We were ready. But we were not ready for this.
Around 5 a.m., things went from a healthy, normal labor/induction to nearly fatal for both me and my unborn son. Out of nowhere, I went into cardiac arrest, the team started CPR and I was emergently taken to the operating room for a C-section and to revive my heart. It took 14 minutes before my heart started beating. During that time they also did CPR to revive my son. Afterward, I was taken to the ICU and my son to the Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Doctors quickly diagnosed me with a rare condition called Amniotic Fluid Embolism (AFE) which occurs in 1 in 40,000 births but is the leading cause of maternal mortality around the world, second in the United States.
The first three days were critical. Resuscitating me was just the first step in a long process of organ failure, blood loss and trauma to my body. I developed a bleeding disorder called DIC (disseminated intravascular coagulation) which caused me to bleed uncontrollably for nearly seven hours, and I required 109 units of blood. I had five surgeries to stop the bleeding and repair damage. I also had to be put on dialysis because of the damage to my kidneys caused by the cardiac arrest and massive blood loss. The blood and fluids caused me to gain 70 pounds in about 12 hours causing massive nerve damage to my abdomen, hands and feet.
My son, Sullivan, had to receive whole body cooling and required one unit of blood and was declared brain dead for the first few days of his life. He did not handle the cooling well and the choice was to take him off the table and risk permanent damage to his brain or keep him on the treatment and risk his life. Doctors decided to take him off the cooling treatment and things started to improve. Against all odds, he’s progressing normally and shows no signs of deficits, physically or mentally.