Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Labor of Love

"Code Blue".  2 words you don't want to hear while you're in the hospital.  2 words you definitely don't want to hear associated with your hospital room number.  Every year around my son's birthday, those words pop back in my head.  They have been forever etched into my memory.  Those 2 words were called out through the hospital's public address system in regards to my rapidly deteriorating health while I was giving birth to my son.  I had suffered an amniotic fluid embolism, a potentially catastrophic "medical event".

childbirth, baby, infant

My son's birthday is a reminder of how very blessed I am that not only did we both survive, but we both didn't have life-long complications from that crisis.  This year the feelings are even stronger since there's been a lot of news coverage regarding a local woman who suffered a pulmonary embolism at @ 17 weeks gestation.  She was declared brain dead but is being kept alive until the baby can be born.

For me, the condition occurred during labor.  I started having chest and rib pains with difficulty breathing.  Occasionally, during a labor pain, my oxygen saturation monitor's alarm would sound.  The nurse would have me take some deep breaths and all would go back to normal.  After a while, those pains in my chest and ribs began to increase.  With each labor pain, the chest and rib pains would increase in intensity to the point where they became more painful than the labor pains.  It wasn't too long after that when we lost my son's heartbeat.  He had crashed, and my vitals were going down rapidly as well. 

Within seconds of my son crashing, my OB/GYN and the labor and delivery team were pushing my bed at a full run to the operating room.  My labor nurse was pushing drugs in my IV as they ran.  I could hear the urgent page for the anesthesiologist over the hospital's public address system.

By the time we had arrived in the operating room, my son's heartbeat had returned, although it was very faint and he was still quite obviously stressed.  My husband, who was waiting in the hallway and was not being told anything, was fit to be tied.  I remember a nurse coming into the operating room as my epidural was being administered and whispering to the doctor that my husband was about to go ballistic and might have to be restrained.  The only problem was that my mom and dad were there and she was sure she'd have to restrain all 3 of them if she tried to restrain him.

The mental image of my husband (6'1", 235 pounds with shoulders the size of a freight train) being restrained by this tiny slip of a nurse who weighed maybe 100 pounds soaking wet, caused me to laugh out loud.  The doctor allowed him in and he was able to watch as our son was delivered via emergency c-section. 

After delivering my son, it appeared I was doing better as all of my pain had subsided and my vitals were headed in the right direction.  I was moved to a room to convalesce for the remainder of my hospital stay.  A short time later the chest and rib pain returned.  My oxygen saturation monitor started sounding the alarm every 10 minutes.  The night nurse exchanged monitors in hopes of stopping the alarm so I could get some rest.  The new monitor's alarm started sounding from the minute it was plugged in as well.  Convinced it was just the monitor's finickiness, the nurse turned off the monitor.

Within a few hours, the pain was very sharp and weird noises were coming from my lungs with every breath I took.  About that time the doctor came in for his early morning rounds.  I told him the pain had returned and he looked over to discover the monitor had been turned off.  Rather perturbed, he ordered the nurse to turn it back on immediately.

The nurse turned it on and the monitor blinked to life.  We all watched and waited for my oxygen saturation reading to pop up.  The instant the number displayed, the alarm sounded.  My oxygen saturation was at 83% and going down.  The doctor jumped into action and started barking orders.  A button was pushed on the wall behind me.  "Code Blue room ......" was immediately paged throughout the entire hospital.  And I realized....... that was my room!  Talk about a surreal experience.....

Within a matter seconds my hospital room was filled with medical personnel.  The doctor was in the hall with the night nurse ripping her up one side and down the other for turning off the oxygen saturation monitor.  An X-ray machine and echocardiogram equipment appeared out of nowhere.  Doctors, technicians, and specialists of every sort came in rapidly.  There were so many medical personnel trying to get in my room, they were lined up in the hallway.  There were nurses telling patients to get to their rooms and having to argue with family and visitors to go to the visitor's lounge and clear the hallway.  Apparently car wrecks aren't the only emergencies that make people rubber-neck.

A bazillion tests were performed in a very short span of time.  The worst of the worst was......... the arterial blood gas lady.  She so sweetly said "I'm going to draw some blood and it might sting a little".  "Sting" my right eye!  She drew the blood from some vein down in between the bones of my wrist and it did not "sting".......... it hurt like hell!  The numbers quickly came back and we were told I was being moved to I.C.U..

As we waited for I.C.U. to open up a space, the administration of 100% oxygen and a laundry-list of drugs injected into my IV's, started to kick in. My body quickly responded and I was finally, truly, taking a turn for the better.  While I was still on 100% oxygen, I was allowed to stay in my room and didn't have to go to the I.C.U..  I was thrilled I wouldn't be separated from my son for who knew how long. 

After 9 days, the crisis of the embolism passed and I was released with my sweet, healthy baby boy to go home.  My first night home we breathed a sigh of relief and I took a delightfully long, hot shower.  When I got out of the shower, my legs and ankles were the size of an elephant's.  Oh crud.

A new problem had popped up.  My mom took my blood pressure.  It was quite high and my body was retaining so much fluid I looked like Violet, the girl who turned into the giant blueberry in the movie "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory".  Heck, I was pretty sure I could hear the Oompah Loompah's singing their song.

A quick call to my doctor's after-hours number and I was off to the emergency room to meet him there.  It was quickly determined that my kidneys weren't functioning correctly.  My blood pressure was getting higher each and every time it was being taken.  Finally, after what seemed like hours, all of the tests came back.  I had postpartum pre-eclamsia.  They had to readmit me to the hospital.

Without warning I burst into tears.  I hadn't cried a single tear through 9 days of my hospitalization but the thought of having to go back in pushed me over the edge.  My husband started patting my hand and telling me it was only for another day or two.  The doctor patted my shoulder and handed me a box of tissues.  Within a short span of time, I was readmitted, administered high blood pressure medication and my kidneys kicked into action. 

After a total of 10 days in the hospital, and months of doctor and specialists visits, echocardiograms, and other tests afterwards, I was back to my normal self.

While I feel so very blessed to have survived all of that, there is still this voice within me that asks why?  Why did I live when so many others have died after suffering a medical event of this magnitude?  I obviously am here for a purpose, so what is it?  I still have absolutely no idea. I'm just a normal, average, crazy redhead.  I'm nothing special.  I guess one day I'll get to ask that question to my Lord.......... but hopefully not for a very, very long time.  For now, I look at it as a time when everything pointed to an ending, but for me, it was the beginning.

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