This is the second part of my very high risk delivery. Read Part 1 before heading back over here.
It was decided I would have my surgery on Monday morning. Sunday night I went to Labor & Delivery to be admitted so they could make sure my blood sugar was stabilized and to get all the IVs into me. I was supposed to have 3 IVs, but they couldn’t get any of them started. It took several nurses and phlebotomists to get two of them started over a period of a couple hours. They gave up on the third until the next day for surgery time.
I couldn’t sleep at all. I was terrified. I watched GirlBoss on Netflix all night long until they wheeled me out early in the morning. I felt like a parade. As we wheeled through the hospital more and more people joined us. We made our way to the radiology department and more people joined us. There were probably 20 people coming along to watch my procedures.
Once in the radiology department, I had to transfer to a tiny table that was so small they have to insert these armrest type things to hold you on the table. Then, I laid on the cold metal table for an hour while the radiologist inserted the femoral balloons and checked them on fluoroscopy, which is sort of like a sonogram x-ray.
Laying like that killed my back so bad I had tears running down my face, and there was nothing they could do. My ob/gyn came over and held my hand. Finally, they were done, and the nurses prepared these pressure bags of water to be hung on IV poles to hold the pressure in my arteries so I wouldn’t bleed out. Then, the radiologist had an argument with the nurses literally over my body over if these bags would work correctly. It was kinda scary.
At the same time as the argument, the anesthesiologist came over with his nurses and started digging in my arms for additional IV placements. They tried again and finally found one more IV site on my arm, but there was a valve preventing it from working efficiently. It was decided I would have an IV placed in my jugular in my neck after I was put to sleep. I still have a rather large scar in my neck from that IV, now 3 months later.
Next, we were on our way to the operating room. My heart began to race a little as I knew we were really getting to what could be the end of my life.
Usually when I am prepped for a c-section (as I’ve had 3 prior ones), I have an epidural or a spinal, so I don’t feel much of what they’re doing down below. That wasn’t the case this time. Because I was going to have a general anesthesia and totally be put under, they had to prep me while I was still awake, so the baby got as little anesthesia in her as possible. That meant I got to feel the catheter inserted into my bladder, and I was still awake as they draped me – including OVER MY FACE.
The worst part — and I mean the worst part that still gives me literal nightmares to this day — the anesthesiologist started the anesthesia meds, but instead of feeling drowsy first, I was feeling my lungs paralyzing. I kept screaming and thrashing that I could not breathe. I truly thought I was dying, and I was going to go down fighting it. All I can remember is trying to force myself to feel the drowsiness, and there was none, until I was just out. It felt like I was never going to sleep.
What happened next is just from what my husband told me because I did not wake up until Tuesday. First, my ob/gyn and her partner got the baby out within 7 minutes of my going under. Next, the gynecological oncologist took my uterus out as planned with the placenta still inside it and sent it off to the pathologist. They found my uterus was stuck to my bladder, which caused a hole. They actually left a small portion of my uterus to not cause a bigger hole. The urologist came in to make the bladder repair. I was in surgery for 3-4 hours this whole time.
I didn’t hemorrhage during the surgery, but I did require 2 units of blood during the surgery. I also required 2 more additional units while in the ICU because my hematocrit was not climbing above 7.
According to my husband, since I was unconscious, he was not expecting to see me covered in so many tubes and machines. No one prepared him for the ventilator, so he was terrified. Apparently, I didn’t do so well with the anesthesia (uh…really?), so they wanted me sedated on the ventilator for additional time. While I was sedated my husband flew between the 2nd floor ICU and the 3rd floor NICU where our daughter was also on a ventilator and in an incubator — or a space pod as he liked to call it.
I remember a couple of fleeting moments in the ICU room on Monday. I remember the ICU nurse asking me if I knew where I was — which I shook my head I did not. ICU had not been part of the plan. And, I remember late at night the ICU doctor standing over me and telling my husband they would turn up the sedation. My husband had to fight for me a few times in the ICU. That first night, they didn’t want to increase the sedation in case it dropped my blood pressure lower as it was around 96/50 at the time, but I was gagging on the ventilator. They finally relented and gave me more sedation and I went back to lala land.
After that, I woke up the next morning on Tuesday with the ventilator still down my throat. I had to calm myself into a zen relaxation I’ve never experienced to breathe with the ventilator because they left me like that for hours. I was able to answer questions for the ICU nurse and my husband with head shakes, but all I kept thinking about was my baby. That’s what got me through.
I decided I would do a bit of Helen Keller as my husband was holding my hand the entire time. I wasn’t sure if he could pick up on sign language letters made into his hand, so I just used my pointer finger and started writing letters slowly in his hand. He actually understood quite quickly, and I was able to ask him all kinds of questions about the baby in very short forms. It made the time with the ventilator go by so much faster. I asked him about her hair color, her weight, anything I could think of to forget the ventilator in throat. He was able to show me videos of her on his phone.
This entire time, the doctors and the nurses were debating if they should take out my femoral balloons first or the ventilator. They were worried if they removed the ventilator that I wouldn’t be able to sit still for the femoral balloons as I had to be totally flat on my back for hours after they were removed for clotting.
Originally they wanted to do the balloons first, but that entailed removing one balloon from one femoral artery and then they had to physically lay over my leg and apply pressure for an hour. Then, do it that a second time for the second leg. It was a procedure that took hours.
Finally the ICU nurse said he had never seen someone so calm on the ventilator that he pressed for it to be removed first (thank goodness!). He even told the student nurse that I was a unicorn and not ever expect someone this calm on a ventilator ever again.
Honestly, I was so calm because I was more terrified of getting the ventilator removed than keeping it in. They hadn’t really explained the process of it to me yet, and I knew it was going to hurt and make me gag and cough horribly. Once it was decided, they quickly explained to just start coughing as soon as they started pulling. OMG, it’s the worst gagging, can’t breathe feeling you can imagine. Then you have to force yourself to cough and cough and cough for days to prevent pneumonia from settling in. They even give you a suction tube like at the dentist to help suck all that mucous out the back of your throat.
Once the ventilator was removed, then they got to work on the femoral balloons. I still had the pressure bags on IV poles holding the pressure in my arteries from bleeding out, so they had to get rid of all those – 4 on each side.
They removed the balloon on one leg and then held pressure with their hands and arms for an hour as hard as they could pushing down on my groin. At this point, modesty had gone out the window. Two male nurses literally were inches from my vagina for an hour pushing down for the clots to form. Once the first one was done, they waited about an hour and then did the exact same procedure with the second one. It took all afternoon to get them out.
After that I had to wait a few more hours before I could sit up. The best part was that I had to call the ICU nurse into my room when I had an urge to cough so he could hold the pressure just in case, while I was coughing. Coughing is spontaneous and that was so hard to wait for him to come and hold the cough in. I would not let my husband go see the baby at this point because I was so afraid I wouldn’t be able to get the nurse in the room when I needed to cough.
They were so worried about my femoral incisions from the balloons that I had to stay in the ICU until Wednesday night.
Wednesday afternoon was the first time I got to eat, and all I was allowed was chicken broth. I hadn’t eaten since Sunday night prior to that, but I wasn’t hungry. They fixed me up a Dilaudid pain pump, so I honestly didn’t care about anything. I was in and out of sleep and was having some mild hallucinations like the ceiling tiles were rolling above me, and I could feel very cold gray hands stroking my hair when I was alone.
Wednesday afternoon I had a physical therapist come help me get out of bed. I was very dizzy from the pain meds and laying flat for so long the only thing I could do was stand up from the bed while holding a walker. I wasn’t sure how I was ever going to get up to the Postpartum department to see my baby with the slow progress I was making.
Stay tuned for part 3 when I finally get to meet my sweet baby girl.