AFE Survivor Cathy G

Mar 15, 2020 | AFE Stories, AFE Survivor

On September 18th, I went into labor with our second daughter and headed to the hospital. Labor progressed throughout the night and the next day around 10 am I received an epidural and decided to take a nap. I woke up around lunch wondering where my husband was so I called him. He was grabbing lunch then would be back so I dozed off again. Around a quarter of 5, I suddenly woke up and said my heart is racing. My wonderful husband, Eli, went to get the nurse because he thought the monitor had slipped. As he walked back in the room he said I slumped over and my eyes rolled back in my head. My amazing L&D nurse Kristi grabbed the blood pressure cuff and my wrist for a pulse check. When she couldn’t feel a pulse, she grabbed my shoulders and yelled my name a few times. When I didn’t awake she hit the staff assist button. This alarm calls the NICU and L&D teams. Kristi then jumped on my bed to start CPR. After another few minutes, they called the “Code Blue”. This alarm calls several other teams, like the cardiac team. At this point, my husband and doula were rushed out of the room as several nurses and doctors rushed in. My husband said it was so surreal. There were probably about 40 doctors and nurses from different specialties lined up outside my room waiting to be called in if they were needed.

The OBGYN hospitalist decided to do an emergency cesarean in the L&D room which probably saved my daughter from further trauma. My daughter did initially have to be intubated, but recovered amazingly well!

Then they started working on me. After about 30 minutes they stabilized me and rushed me to an Operating Room to figure out what was going on. I coded several more times in the OR and needed surgery because my lung collapsed, I had a clot in it, and my lung was where my heart was supposed to be due to a hemopneumothorax. I also went into disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) which medical professionals call death is coming. This is where your body is bleeding from every orifice and throws blood clots at the same time. I had blood clots in my right hand, in my brain which caused a stroke, and in the veins leading to my kidneys and legs which caused my kidneys to shut down and cut off blood supply to my legs. The doctors even talked about a double amputation and kidney transplant, but thankfully both were not needed. Although I have the perfect donor since I am an identical twin. Over the course of the next week, I had 5 more surgeries, including a hysterectomy, and was put on Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). ECMO saved my life because my heart and lungs were not working properly. ⁣⁣

I was in a coma for a total of 9 days. It is a very surreal experience to wake up and learn you were asleep for over a week; especially since I had no memory of being pregnant or entering the hospital. I was on such heavy drugs that even though I was awake I felt like I was in the clouds and everything was in slow motion. I woke up still on a ventilator which is one of the worst things someone can experience. Not being able to communicate with your husband or nurses can be very frustrating!

After I was discharged from the ICU I went to the cardiac floor for 1 week; then onto in-patient rehab for 8 days. It was truly miraculous and the best feeling when I was able to walk the short distance to my car after only 31 days in the hospital! Once home, I would begin in-home OT, PT, Speech, and Home Health Care.

I would need several more rounds of each including balance and neurological physical therapy to learn how to cope with my deficits. Just this week I found out my heart is still damaged from my AFE, but my cardiologist is hopeful it will continue to heal. Also, next month I will begin intensive speech therapy with the hope that I will be cleared to drive. I’ve never really loved driving, but have not done it for over two years I will never complain again!

I recently started a podcast to share my story of recovery, offer support, and hopefully educate survivors on treatment options. One of the questions I ask almost all of my guests is what do you love most about yourself after becoming a parent. For me, I have learned how truly resilient and determined I am. Yes, I have had several setbacks and hospitalizations, but you have to keep showing up. Every day is new! Also, I have never felt the Lord closer to me in my entire life. On really hard days I usually put on some worship music and sing, dance, or journal. Not always very well, but showing up is what matters.

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