Monday, December 17, 2012

My Placenta Previa Ruptures

So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.
‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’
“But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ Luke 12:19-20 NKJV


            After grocery shopping, a gas station stop, and a physically uncomfortable drive, I arrived home at 11:30 PM, the evening of April 8. Chris had walked through the door only fifteen minutes earlier. After washing and dressing for bed, I sat down on the bed to talk to Chris about Carol and her husband, David.* Chris had arrived home just as Carol, David and Parker were driving away. Parker wasn’t in his car seat, and Chris described David as “smelling like a distillery.” David had picked up Carol so they could go home, and she could then return to our house with their car in order to drive herself home later.
            Though angered by Chris’s narration and his dismissive attitude and refusal to recognize how his actions contributed to the event, I only had enough energy to thank God that Parker lay safely in bed, sleeping peacefully. I’d bring the topic up for a discussion at a better time.
            Just one more trip to the bathroom, and I’ll be able to sleep, I thought. That ride home was miserable. I reluctantly rolled my bulging frame out of bed and trudged wearily to the bathroom.
            That’s where our nightmare unleashed itself in a hellish convulsion.
            Startled, I chilled at the sight of bright red blood on the toilet tissue and tried to blink away the sickening vision. Panicking, I clutched at more tissue as the red river streamed from my body.
            I must be going into labor! My heart plummeted while my head swam in a psychological swirl of panic and disbelief.
            “Chris, I’m bleeding, really badly!” I called from the bathroom. I struggled to maintain a sense of calm, but my thoughts resonated with bewildered agony. Chris raced into the bathroom as I stood, attempting to gingerly maneuver my way into the shower area to lie on the floor.
             Unable to glimpse the vast amounts of blood deposited on the carpet, I remained unaware of the horrifying emergency unfolding before my husband.
            “Should I call 911?” Chris asked in almost a whisper. Nodding my head, I took deliberate, slow breaths to calm myself while he sprinted to the phone.
            I could hear him rapidly articulating information to the dispatcher while I lay on the cold bathroom floor tile, legs propped against the bathtub wall. I stared at the ceiling, praying fervently for the salvation of my pregnancy. 
            “Bring me a towel. Maybe applying pressure will slow or stop the bleeding.” Chris promptly located a hand towel and gave it to me. I imagined the blood to be coming from within my uterus – blood normally lost during labor. I was utterly ignorant of the fact that it was my arterial blood pumping rhythmically onto the floor, and that I was rapidly bleeding to death.
            Chris squeezed my hand as he crouched beside me. “This may be the end of the road, “ I whispered with an edge of apology.
            His eyes revealed a fusion of love, fear and sorrow as he nodded and responded tenderly, “That’s okay.”
            I meant the end of the road for the baby, not for me. Neither of us realized that was a strong possibility, but the look on Chris’s face suddenly betrayed his nervousness. Never before had he looked so frightened.
            From our house we heard our local volunteer fire department alarm sound, and, within minutes, one of the fireman arrived, looking concerned and authoritative in his big yellow coat, pants and black boots. Instantly, I felt secure, until he squatted next to me, slowly, nervously raked his black hair with splayed fingers and blurted out a confession. “I can take care of a burning building, and I can get you out of a car in a freeway accident with the jaws-of-life…but…I don’t have any idea what to do in a situation like this!” He seemed close to tears. His hands shook violently as he rose to pace back and forth in our bathroom.
            My heart sank. Then I collected all of the courage and remaining strength I possessed to try to calm him. The three of us waited anxiously – silently – for someone else to arrive.
            Mercifully, within moments, another volunteer fireman appeared. He immediately took control, talking rapidly to the fire and emergency units en route to our house from another station, while simultaneously talking to me. Speaking concisely and confidently, he busied himself with taking vital statistics: blood pressure, color, and general assessment. Then he led Chris into the bathroom to – out of my hearing range – to question him. Annoying, uncontrollable shivers and drowsiness crept through my body. I was going into shock. Hemorrhaging has that kind of effect on you. Lying half-naked on a cold tile floor doesn’t help.
            Soon almost a dozen more paramedics and firefighters paraded in with their bags, phone, and arsenal of emergency lifesaving equipment, and engaged themselves in their procedures as though being timed for Olympic trials. They synchronously assessed, inserted, questioned and reassured; they solicited Chris for answers, and I responded – in medical terminology.
            “Is she a nurse?” someone asked.
            “No,” I responded before laboring to take another breath. “Certified athletic trainer.” They started questioning me directly. I was grateful since talking helped keep me moderately alert. “Any other problems with the pregnancy?”
            “Yes.” A litany of difficulties and complications we’d encountered up to that point spilled from my lips.
            “Any pain?”
            “No…well…yes.” I winced as I spoke. Cramping and shock had begun to affect my concentration, making response increasingly difficult. While I struggled to answer that question, one paramedic started an IV in my elbow while another scribbled answers in medical abbreviations on his hand. Another patrolled my bathroom, attempting to calculate the amount of blood loss, while one communicated by two-way radio with the nearest trauma center, twenty-five miles away. Concurrently, the trauma center conversed with the emergency room physician at our village’s small, isolated hospital. She then contacted their on-call obstetrician. Chris listened attentively to the rapid dialogue exchanged among the three, not appearing to be reassured by the conversations.
            The Life Flight helicopter was in the air, but two problems confronted them: the time was 12:15 AM, and we lived in a rural area surrounded by acres of avocado and citrus groves bordered by canyons and hills – all without street lighting. The pad on the lower part of our four-acre property, graded flat for our future dream pool, was large enough to safely land a helicopter on. During daylight hours. But landing the craft in a remote area blanketed by coastal fog presented a significant safety concern. Firemen who arrived in a hook and ladder truck illuminated the pad with their massive spotlights, and another three-way conversation ensued. Even with the substantial arc lights dousing the pad, the pilot was unable to see it clearly through the thick, misty coating. They were so close Chris could hear the chopping blades hovering over our house. In my increasingly dazed state, I was unaware of their presence.
            But Life Flight would not be arriving on our property that night. The pilot made the decision against a landing attempt and returned to the Escondido hospital without me. When the tone of the discussion between the paramedics and doctors darkened, the speaker was snapped off so Chris was unable to hear what transpired between them. Feeling as though he’d lost the small vestige of control he acquired from sharing in the dialogue, he became more visibly alarmed. Finally, a decision was reached that the local hospital’s obstetrician could handle the emergency. Everyone rapidly switched gears and prepared me for ambulance transport.
            That moving procedure proved to be more difficult than anticipated. The Fallbrook hospital doctor gave strict orders that I was not to move a muscle or sit upright, so they lifted and anchored me onto a special full-length appliance used for emergency evacuations. Then I was transported downstairs – head first – into the waiting ambulance. The paramedics performed the conveyance with careful precision, bearing me gently, quickly down two flights of stairs, head first, into the waiting ambulance. It always looked so exciting and dramatic on television. Dramatic it was, but at that moment, the drama unfolding in our house was a real life and death nightmare Chris and I were living.         
            The paramedics worked rapidly in the ambulance, obtaining vital signs, applying EKG pads, and bundling me in warm blankets. They were methodical and solemn, quickly, efficiently performing their duties while softly conversing with me to keep me alert. I strained to keep my eyes open, to remain attentive enough to answer their questions. The cramping worsened, the precariously placed elbow IV sent shock waves of pain through my arm with each tiny movement of it, and I drifted in and out of consciousness. One of the men climbed out of the ambulance to speak briefly with Chris, and I heard Chris say he would meet us at the hospital. The paramedic quickly returned to my side, closed the door, and we departed.


Next week: Chris’s shock, and the ambulance transport and arrival at the hospital

*Name changed to protect privacy

Note: I’ll be adding a special Christmas post on December 24 and then adding my regular post on December 26.

Thanks for joining me.

Make it a great week!