AFE Survivor Meghan

It was Valentine’s Day of 2018 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. 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, we took the classes. We were ready. But we were not ready for this.

Around 5 o’clock a.m., things went from a healthy, normal labor/induction to nearly fatal for both me and my unborn son. I suddenly went into cardiac arrest, the team started CPR and I was emergently taken to the operating room to get the baby out & revive my heart. It was 14 minutes later before they were able to restart my heart. During that time they also did CPR and revived my son. Afterward, we were both taken to the ICU. 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 United States. 

The first 3 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 7 hours and required 109 units of blood. I had 5 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 be put on a cooling table for 3 days, required 1 unit of blood and was declared brain dead for the first few days of his life. He did not handle the cooling table well and the choice was to take him off the table and risk permanent damage to his brain or keep him on the table and risk his life. Doctors decided to take him off the cooling table and things started to improve. Against all odds, he’s progressing normally and shows no signs of deficits, physically or mentally.

I do not remember anything from the moment my heart stopped until about 8 days later. I was in and out of sedation & intubated much of the time. Heavy drugs also contributed to the memory loss during that time. Doctors and nurses did everything to help an unconscious mother bond with her newborn son. They took two dolls, one for each of us, and traded them back and forth so my son could get used to my scent. Nurses took the time every two hours to pump me as my birth wishes were, even while unconscious. Although I never was able to successfully breastfeed, I am ever so grateful for their efforts. 

22 days later, we were discharged from the hospital and sent home to make a full recovery. I am so grateful to the doctors and nurses who surrounded me during my worst days and fought for me like I was one of their own. Its because of their efforts that both my son and I will have no lasting damage. My family and friends are absolutely amazing and I am so overwhelmed by the generosity of people. We survived. Watch out world, we aren’t going anywhere.