AFE Survivor Alexis

On January 20, 2016 I was admitted to Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne, Indiana for the scheduled induction of my fourth child. I was 40 weeks and 1 day pregnant. My three previous pregnancies were healthy and labor started spontaneously with each. This pregnancy was also healthy and considered low-risk. I remember it snowed that morning and we were about 30 minutes late for our 7am admitting time. After the series of questions, a few last pregnancy pictures, the nurses hooked me up the prescribed drugs to jump start the labor. A little after 11am I was running full capacity on the Pitocin and at 12:30pm my water broke! Shortly after 1pm the anesthesiologist administered the epidural. I remember that the epidural only took on the left side of my body; I could still feel the contractions full-force on the right side. I laid flat for about 10 minutes before the nurses decided to roll me to my right side and see if the numbing would take on that side. In just a few minutes of being on my right side, the baby’s heart rate started dropping. Over the next few minutes a flood of nurses swarmed my room. I very quickly realized that this was becoming an emergency. I felt dizzy and a little nauseous and was placed with an oxygen mask.

As soon as the doctor arrived, she quickly assessed the situation and decided we were heading back for an emergency C-section. I remember the team of nurses jogging down the hallway while they pushed me to the operating room. I remember asking for my husband. Because the epidural only took on one side of my body, I had to go under general anesthesia. This was my first surgery, EVER, and I was scared! I remember the last thing I said to my doctor, was “please don’t let me die”. At that point we only thought the emergency was with the baby, we had no idea what was happening with me.

I woke up about 18 hours later in the ICU, still intubated, and had no idea what had happened. I was so incredibly thirsty and could not understand why I was restrained. Over the next few hours I slowly became more conscious. I couldn’t ask questions, as the tube was still down my throat. My husband informed me that we had a little girl. He told me that they named her Eden. During the pregnancy we were debating between two names; Eden was my pick! She was completely healthy and doing great! The doctor came in to explain what had happened to me. Little did she know that when she sat down to explain how they gave me 25 units of blood, how many clotting medicines they tried, how long I was in surgery, everything; that I was focusing on my 30 minutes of breathing so that I could have the tube removed. I couldn’t look at her, I just stared at the clock watching the minutes tick by, trying not to have a complete breakdown listening to everything she was saying.

Every single nurse and doctor assigned to my case, told me how extremely lucky I was to be alive. I had this amazing ICU nurse, who broke protocol so that I could see my baby. She hooked me up to every portable device and wheeled me in my bed from ICU to the childbirth floor. The moment I first met Eden, all of that fear and sadness was gone; I just felt unbelievable joy that I was alive and holding my daughter! I only spent about 30 minutes with her and had to return to ICU; it would be another 24 hours before I was transferred to the childbirth floor.

We left the hospital 5 days after her birth. Returning home, pulling into the garage, I remember telling my husband that we need to spend the rest of our life being thankful for what we have. It’s easy to get caught up in the insignificant, superficial, everyday nonsense; I wanted to only focus on our family unit. I wanted to keep us all in a bubble so that nothing could happen to any of us.

Over the next few days, weeks, and months there would be countless times that I would just breakdown crying, as I would think about what could have happened. I also felt sadness thinking about what I missed during my daughter’s first few days. It would hit me out of nowhere. One trigger was the smell of the hospital. Our pediatrician’s office was attached to the hospital where I delivered. I couldn’t walk into that building without that smell hitting me, and then the anxiety following.

My mom, husband, and best friend have been my main support system through this past year. They still deal with me randomly asking questions about that day. For me, not knowing what happened from the time I was in the operating room until I woke up in ICU, continues to plague me. I’ve read through my medical records, but still do not feel like I have closure. Short of asking my doctor to go to coffee with me and give me a play-by-play; I’m not sure I’ll ever know all of the details. And, I’m not sure why that’s important.

Today, I physically feel good. I continue to notice some shortfalls in my cognitive processing and my memory. My emotional healing is largely in part due to the AFE support group. Reading stories, seeking advice, and being able to assist others in their recovery; seems to be a healing process for me. My children are too young to understand what happened. At some point I want them to learn about Amniotic Fluid Embolisms, and that their mother suffered from one. It’s important for me to document everything that I can remember, so that in a few years I can answer their questions. I also feel better knowing that I’m helping other survivors.