30/12/97 – 03/01/98
After surviving the experience of having our first child born at 24 weeks gestation, and knowing the risks of prematurity, my husband and I decided to try again with another addition to our family.
And six months later, we were delighted to find that I was pregnant and would be due in April 1998. Whereas with my first pregnancy the first sixteen weeks were largely uneventful, this was not the case this time. At my first checkup at the hospital, approx. 7-8 weeks gestation, it was found that my blood pressure was fairly elevated at 140/90 and already protein was in my urine. Due to my previous obstetric history, I was classed as a high-risk pregnancy and booked in for fortnightly visits at the hospital.
Nearly a week later, I started to experience some light bleeding and on my next antenatal visit, was prescribed medication for my high blood pressure. I did not feel well and was experiencing nausea for most of the day. At this point, I decided to resign from my job, as I wanted to concentrate on my health and that of my unborn child.
At twelve weeks, I had my first scan and although my baby seemed in good health, my placenta had dropped down over my cervix, and I was told that I may have placenta praevia, but this may rectify itself in time and not to be too concerned yet. On testing of my blood pressure, I was found to have a reading of 150/100 and was admitted to hospital for observation and rest.
Over the course of the next six weeks, a similar pattern began to emerge with high blood pressure, protein in my urine and I was still experiencing small bleeds. I was spending a few days in the hospital every few weeks. At my eighteen-week scan, it was found that my placenta was now firmly planted over my cervix and it was difficult to gain accurate measurements of my baby, as the head was now engaged. My obstetrician had discussed the possible insertion of a cervical stitch to prevent my cervix from dilating, but at this point he did not think it was possible.
At 22 weeks 2 days gestation, I awoke in my bed feeling a gushing sensation and found myself to be sitting in a pool of blood and bleeding quite heavily. My husband had gone to work early and I was alone, except for my two-year-old daughter in the next room, and panicked. I rang for an ambulance, at this point screaming for someone to help me, all the time the blood continuing to gush. Apparently it was only ten minutes before the ambulance, but to me it seemed like a lifetime. By this time Laura and I were both screaming and I managed to crawl to the front door and unlock it for the ambulance.
I was rushed to the labour ward at the Royal Women’s Hospital where I was found to have lost over two litres of blood and was by this time experiencing premature labour contractions. With the rush and commotion, I was slightly unaware of what was going on, but they were able to halt the contractions with some ventalin and thankfully, the placental haemorraging started to subside.
The doctors explained to me that at 22 weeks gestation, there was only a very small chance that my baby would survive and that they would do all they could for both of us.
I was still in hospital, but feeling better and the bleeding had almost subsided when Christmas came. I begged to be allowed to go home for Christmas lunch, and my doctor very reluctantly agreed on the provision that I was only to be gone for three hours. I was so scared to be away from the safely of the hospital, that I was glad to return.
On the morning of the 30th December, I awoke in my hospital bed at 6am and again felt a gushing sensation. I got up and realised that I was again bleeding and called for the nurse. My husband was called and when he arrived the bleeding had started to subside. I was 23 weeks and 4 days gestation. They were keeping a very close eye on me and I was starting to feel that everything was going to be okay, when I started to haemorrhage again quite badly. At about 11am, I was rushed to the labour ward.
The doctors felt that it was becoming a dangerous time for both my child and I, as the bleeding was continuing quite strongly and they said that they would perform an emergency caesarian. They assured me that they would do all they could for the baby, but at that point my own health was suffering. I remember being rushed into the theatre and at 12.55pm Alexandra Louise was born, and resuscitated, weighed 645 grams (1pound 6 oz) and being 22 cms in length.
I remember waking a few hours later and asking if my baby was ok and being shown a photograph of her. We knew that her chances of survival were about 40-50% but were hopeful that she would be ok. Her oxygen requirements were at 100% and her ventilation pressures were quite high, but she appeared to stabilize for her first night.
She needed a blood and platelet transfusion early the next day, and was suffering from two burns on her left thigh and right arm. Her blood gases were not good and she was also suffering from slight jaundice. We decided to have her baptised the next day, New Years Day.
We knew that she was not well but the doctors and nurses were doing the best for her that they could, I was still feeling quite groggy from the caesarian and left her father to watch over her while I went to rest.
At about 10pm on the Friday night, Stephen had only just left to return home and I had gone to bed when the nursery called to say that Alexandra had had a small bleed in her left lung and that I was needed right away. I called Stephen to come straight back to the hospital. I remember walking back into the ICN and seeing the worried faces of the nurses, who had then told me that her heart and pulse were dropping quite low, and they also suspected that she had experienced a Grade 3 brain bleed. Her father and I sat with her holding onto any hope that they could give us. roseAt about 12.30am they told us that there was nothing more that they could do for her, and she was dressed and removed from her humidicrib and placed in my arms. At 1.03 am, she slipped peacefully away from us.
We are grateful for the time we had with her and still love her dearly. We would like to thank the wonderful Doctors and Nurses at the Royal Women’s Hospital, Brisbane who took such good care of her, and cried with us when she was gone. Nearly five years on, the memories are still there and the pain has eased with time.
by Kim Rivers
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