AFE Survivor, Stephanie

May 9, 2015 | Books on AFE

In May 2013, after months of premonitions and a sense of foreboding , Stephanie Arnold was set to deliver her second child, a son named Jacob. Doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago were mindful of Stephanie’s concerns and made sure to have extra precautions that day but reassured her all would be fine. Then, her worst fear came true. Her heart stopped for 37 seconds. Stephanie was suffering from an AFE.

Several months prior, she was diagnosed with a complete placenta previa, which can cause serious complications during delivery.  Following this discovery, Stephanie experienced overwhelming premonitions of doom.  She told many people about her anxiety and her premonitions, (not making it through the delivery, the baby being fine, her need for a hysterectomy, a rare occurrence of a potential marriage between the placenta and the uterus, among others) including her doctors in New York and Chicago, but was not taken seriously.

Finally, her OBGYN, Dr. Julie Levitt advised her to have a detailed phone consult with an anesthesiologist. At that consultation, Stephanie’s premonitions were taken quite seriously by Dr. Grace Lim.  Unbeknownst to Stephanie, Dr. Lim created a Plan B anesthesia strategy based on her foreboding visions, to include extra blood, monitors and a crash cart to be present at the time of her delivery.  Those extra resources ultimately saved Stephanie’s life.

Staying true to her motto “If you SENSE something, SAY something”, these steps laid the foundation for Stephanie’s incredible survival.

It took multiple surgeries, blood transfusions of three times Stephanie’s blood supply, and one agonizing week for Stephanie to stabilize and return to consciousness. She faced several more weeks of kidney dialysis. It took almost six months for the teams of specialists from across Northwestern Memorial Hospital to nurse her back to health, but not without the residual effects of memory loss and tissue damage.

The AFE experience was life-changing. Prior to the birth of her children, Stephanie spent 27 years in the television industry from working in local news to directing and producing music videos, infomercials, educational documentaries, syndicated and network shows. She is an Emmy nominated, Telly award winner, and Premio lo Nuestro nominated producer. Her time behind the camera suddenly shifted to being in front of the camera. Stephanie’s incredible story has been featured on national television programs most notably, Good Morning America, The Doctors, and the Steve Harvey Show.

Everything in Stephanie’s life had led her to this place and now she was moving in a new trajectory.  She decided to devote herself to making others aware of her story and to encourage them to advocate on their own behalf to their health care professionals. Stephanie also pledged her support to the AFE Foundation.

Stephanie, a gifted writer and creative thinker, immediately began to formulate ways to share her story with the masses. She started writing her thoughts and feelings of gratitude in a blog, She also shared her story in an informative video for the American Society of Anesthesiology (ASA) When Seconds Count campaign. A campaign that would reach clinicians making them acutely aware of AFE and the importance of listening to their patients. In fact, this past week, Stephanie shared her story at the ASA Legislative Conference.

Stephanie set out to share her story in a way that would capture so many of the pieces the led her to where she is today. The result was a poignant book, 37 Seconds.

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