Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Day We Got a Second Chance to Live

Today is AFE (Amniotic Fluid Embolism) Awareness Day, and I'd like to help raise awareness by sharing my story.     

AFE is not a common occurrence. The survival rate is low. Many precious moms and babies loose their lives to AFE. Of the ones that do survive, many are often in comas and in ICU for weeks or even months. Then there are those like me who are off the ventilator and able to hold their baby in less than 24 hours.   

Not much is know about AFE, and there is a research project underway that I plan to participate in through the AFE Foundation. To learn more, please visit www.afesupport.org

Our Story: 

  March 20, is the first day of spring. A time when we are reminded of rebirth and new beginnings. This day, six years ago, was certainly a new beginning for our family, in a way we didn't expect. 

Jonathan's labor was a normal one. But something unexpected happened near the end. My uterus began a contraction and didn't stop. The placenta completely separated from the uterine wall (placental abruption). Jonathan, at that moment, was cut off from his oxygen supply from me. He was left with only what remained... I couldn't breath; I couldn't talk; I couldn't move. We believe at this time I also experienced an amniotic fluid embolism (AFE). All of these things on their own, let alone all together, are extreme emergencies. 

 We were rushed into the OR for an emergency C-section. I was put completely under since I opted to not get an epidural or any pain meds during labor. This was truly a blessing, for all that happened next I didn't need to be awake. 

Jonathan was delivered with an APGAR of 1 out of 10. He had only a heart beat of less than 30. He was completely grey and limp. He had to be resuscitated. His odds of surviving weren't good. I'll never forget the nurse saying afterwards that they were all praying out loud for Jonathan. And after several minutes he took his first breath. His blood gases revealed that he was only 1/100th of a point away from having brain damage. 

While in the OR, I began bleeding out. It's called DIC. In nursing school the abbreviation for Disseminated Intravascualar Coagulation stands for "Death is Coming." My blood pressure dropped and remained extremely low for hours. They were constantly palpating for pulses to make sure I was perfusing. My family was told I might not make it. There were no platelets in the hospital. I needed one more operation, that might save me - but it couldn't be done until platelets arrived. 

I received over 17 units of blood and blood products. My family and the or team prayed over me. The surgery stopped the bleeding and nine hours after giving birth, 8 of which were spent in the OR, I awoke on the ventilator. 

Marty told me all that had happened as soon as I woke up, but I couldn't ask questions b/c of the vent. I remember doing the sign for baby and was told I couldn't see him yet, but that they'd make a picture of him and bring that to me. I remained on the vent for nine more hours and was weaned off. Seventeen hours later, I got to hold my little one for the first time, but I had no strength.
                  
The first time I held Jonathan
    I fought hard to nurse Jonathan. For the first three weeks there was NO milk. I didn't give  up. After three years, I had to make him stop! 

  It took a full year to regain my strength. My short term memory and concentration was terrible. And I still struggle to find the right words at times. I worried I wouldn't be able to homeschool my children. My OB told me the best thing I could do is homeschool. He said it would be not only good for the kids, but excellent for me, too. 
 
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I prayed. My family prayed. Our friends prayed.

I am so grateful to be healed, to have a perfectly healthy son, and that we are both alive.

Our family changed. My husband no longer takes jobs where he travels constantly. Being together is what's important. He has sacrificed executive positions to be home. I know that's been hard on him, but he'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Taking a deep breath and being with family is not taken for granted. I hope to never take one day for granted - for every single breath is a gift. And I hope to always live my life in a way that honors the giver of life, Jesus. And that no matter what struggles or hardships we face - because there will be more, we always find our hope in Him.

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