Part 1: My Survivor Story
I am a survivor. Those are hard words for me to say. Survivor is a word that is commonly associated with big things like cancer. No, I didn’t have cancer, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a survivor. You can be a survivor of many things and I’m slowly coming to terms with that fact. At first, I felt like I didn’t “earn” the title of survivor. I felt like people had gone through far worse things than what I had and I didn’t deserve to call myself a survivor. I’ve come to realize that just because the beast that I battled was different than others, it doesn’t make it any less real, traumatic or scary, and it doesn’t make me less of a survivor.
I am a survivor of placenta accreta and this is my story.
My story doesn’t really start until ten days after I delivered our second son, Benjamin. He was born on November 20, 2017. About a week after giving birth to him, I was suddenly getting severe pain and I was starting to bleed more than I knew was normal at this point. I called my doctor and she asked me come in for an ultrasound the following day to see what was going on. This scan showed that I had some “retained matter” aka, my placenta left a little bit of itself behind. Under normal circumstances, this would have been an easy fix. I got scheduled for what was supposed to be a simple outpatient procedure called a D&C for the next morning. They would just put me out for about 10 minutes, scrape out my uterus for anything left behind and I should be good to go. Unfortunately, this isn’t quite how it went.
The morning of November 30, 2017, we headed to the hospital for my D&C. My mom took me as my husband wasn’t able to get off so last minute. Being that Benjamin was a newborn and was eating very frequently, he came too. The plan was to have my mom watch Benjamin while I was in surgery. Even though it was a quick and minor procedure, I was very nervous. I had never been in an OR before, never had surgery, never been under anesthesia. After getting all checked in and set up, I fed Benjamin and then they wheeled me back to the OR. It’s funny the little details of experiences that you can remember so vividly. As they wheeled me back, I was crying from a combination of nerves and the crazy postpartum hormones. Before they put me under, a nurse helped to calm me down and they asked if I minded music being played. I said sure, thinking that it might help to calm me down. When the music came on, not only did it immediately calm me down but it actually made me laugh a little. They played “Eye of the Tiger”. It gave me a weird sense of security. Like, the medical team was getting amped up with this song and they were ready to conquer my procedure. (I also remembered thinking “wow, I didn’t realize they actually listened to music in the OR”. I always thought that was just something they did in medical TV shows for added effect). Not more than a minute later, I was out.
The next thing I remember is waking up in the recovery room. I was lying on a bed, shaking uncontrollably (mostly from being cold, but probably some effects from the anesthesia too). I opened my eyes and looked up at the bright white lights on the ceiling. Then I notice a bag of blood hanging on a hook above me. A nurse was right there immediately to check on me as I’m coming out of anesthesia. I knew something must not have gone as expected because of that bag of blood hanging there, but instead of asking about it, the first thing I asked was “what time is it?”. It was already around one in the afternoon. I started to cry. Now keep in mind, my priorities weren’t exactly straight…I blame it on the anesthesia. Anyway, my mom had only taken a half day off work to take me to the hospital and had planned on going to work in the afternoon. I was sobbing. I felt so bad that I caused her to miss an entire day of work unexpectedly. Being it was right after Thanksgiving and right before Christmas, I knew she didn’t have a bunch of vacation time to spare and I felt terrible that she had to use extra time because of me.
My next concern was Benjamin. Was he okay? We had planned on me being away from him for maybe a half hour to an hour max, including recovery time, but instead, I was in the OR for several hours. The nurse quickly updated me and said that he was doing fine with my mom, but that he was definitely getting hungry. They soon brought him back to me in the recovery room to nurse him (kudos to Butler Memorial Hospital for making this special consideration for a nursing mom!). I was so thankful that they did that! Being he was only 10 days old, I didn’t have any milk stocked up so that someone could feed him a bottle. As I’m feeding Benjamin, the doctor that did my procedure came over and briefly explained what had happened.
There was more placenta left than what was expected, and it was really stuck to my uterus. She had to scrape vigorously to get it all out, and I hemorrhaged. My blood pressure fell into the 60s/30s, and I required two blood transfusions. I was in the OR for 2-3 hours, not just the 10 minutes as originally planned. I then learned that I would have to spend the night in the hospital to be monitored. I was crushed by this news. Marshall, our older son (2 years old at that time) was scheduled to get ear tubes in the next morning. My husband and I were supposed to take him together. I was so upset that I wasn’t going to be able to be there for my baby, but I knew it wasn’t an option to cancel his procedure. He had gone through ear infection after ear infection, and I wasn’t going to let him risk getting another one just because I wanted to be there with him. I knew his daddy would take good care of him, but I was suddenly very scared and nervous for him. I had just gone through a “simple” 10 minutes procedure that had unexpected twists and turns…what if that happened to my baby too? Ear tubes only take a few minutes to place, but what if something goes wrong? I was overcome with emotions.
I finally eventually settled and got some rest. My doctor came in my room later that day to check on me and explained the situation a little bit more. She said the pathology report showed that I had a condition called placenta accreta.
Look for Part 2 of my story soon!