Below is Ava’s story. Ava, our first born and our darling girl. To know more of our journey and the complete story, pick up the book expected in 2015.
We found out were were expecting Ava in July 2010. We were overjoyed. We were innocent parents-to-be. Sweetly planning, reading and absorbing everything we could to prepare for our beloved baby. We researched every imaginable instance; from breastfeeding issues to diaper rash. We did not know to look for HELLP, to prepare for stillbirth or for the fight for my life.
The pregnancy was relatively uneventful. We did not know her gender, but we knew her through and through. She hated chicken, loved quiet time at the end of the day when she would kick and bounce around. She loved her Daddy so much. Every time he would place his hand on my stomach she would lean right into him. She would stop kicking at the sound of his voice, she was his from the start. I cannot say I felt well at all, but I was a first time Mom, I read all the books; they said fatigue was normal,I was fatigued. They said morning sickness can last all pregnancy, so my complete lack of appetite and general malaise seemed rather normal. My fabulous midwife was not alarmed, I was not alarmed. Sure I had my great days, bad days and everything in between. My blood pressure was normal, numbers were perfect, all in all sweet baby and I were well.
February 7th, 2011 I went to work for my last scheduled week. The rib pain had moved to between my shoulders. I called my doctor and midwife; both of whom advised it was muscular; take a Tylenol and if it did not go away to present in hospital. I continued to work, with my heat pack. All of the sudden at 3:30 pm I had a funny feeling wash over me. Something felt wrong. I tingled from the tip of my head to my toes: something felt off. I excused myself from work and went home. I called my husband and my Mom on the way, we met at the house and called my midwife whom we consulted with by phone. By 6:30pm we headed to our local hospital, the pain was increasing and completely out of control. My shoulder blades were throbbing and I could only take shallow breaths, lying down was the only tolerable position. We had no idea what was happening and were terrified.
We decided to go to our local hospital as the pain suddenly increased and we live a mere few blocks away. When presenting in the emergency room we were told to go to Labour and Delivery. I was wheeled to L&D. I changed and was hooked up to monitors, at that time they said the baby’s heart beat was strong and that the OB would be in shortly to see us. I was left in excruciating pain ripping through my shoulder blades and ribs with my husband in the L&D room for approximately 20 mins while we could hear the nurses discussing why we had been sent up from emergency downstairs. They then came in to inform us that the OB was refusing to see us, that this was not something they could help us with, and they were sending us back to Emergency. Now our fear turned to anger. How could he not come and see us?
Upon arriving back in the emergency department we met with our dear midwife. She checked the baby and we were told everything was fine. My parents arrived and suddenly we felt more supported and ready to fight whatever this was. The ER doctor, to whom this day his face is written in my mind, began testing. Pulmonary embolism? X Rays came back clear, blood work came back clear. After an hour of lying in pain, trying every test he could come up with, he ordered one last test. I could tell he was becoming exasperated with each time he walked into our room with no answers. The blood work came back, HELLP syndrome. He said that my platelets were dangerously low (I do not know all the numbers, my husband does) my liver enzymes were climbing and they believed that my liver was the source of the pain. They had to immediately get me to the nearest city, approximately 30 mins away, where they could safely deliver a 34 week old baby and “save your life.” This was the first time we heard this expression, it was 10pm on February 7th, 2011 and the fight for my life would continue for the next 10 days.
I was taken by Ambulance to the nearest city with a specialized delivery and neonatal department. At this time I was given some morphine, which did nothing to dent the pain. My husband was taken to do paperwork and they set me up in my room. The MFM specialist came in and said that they were going to do an ultrasound to check on baby, they would then access my care plan from then. With my husband next to me and my mother coming down the hall the tech put the ultrasound wand to my belly.
The room fell quiet.
The ultrasound technician left to get the doctor. I looked at my husband and held my breath.
The MFM specialist came back into the room. He did not make eye contact with us and silently stood looking at the images for some time. He then said “your child has expired.”
I looked at my husband, our eyes filled with horror, my mother’s face in the doorway stricken with fear and pain. I said to Matt “Oh God, we killed our baby.”
I did not scream. I did not cry. I asked a lot of questions. Why? How? What is happening? Why didn’t you get the baby out in time? Why didn’t we know the baby was in distress? How could you let this happen? You said the baby was fine!!
I received no answers. I received pity. I received pained faces that walk into the room and a symbol put on the door to signify a dead baby was within.
I shut off. I went inside to be with my child. I hung onto my child.
It is now 1:00am. I am in horrific, screaming, stabbing pain from my liver. It is rupturing and bleeding out into my abdomen but no one knows. It is bruising, covering itself in a bruise so deep it would cover 80 percent of this largest organ in my body. No one knows. They remain fixed on delivering “this baby vaginally.” They remain fixed on the fact that is best. The doctor orders for an induction. I am not allowed to have any pain meds because of my platelet count being so low. I have to endure the pain of delivery, induction and liver rupture on low dose morphine.
My poor sweet husband is reeling. He is stunned as we all are. At every opportunity I take his hand and tell him I am fighting. I tell him I will survive, I tell him he needs to get me someone who can help me and I will fight. We call for back up, my sister. She is a warrior woman. A force of nature. We now have my sister, midwife and parents battling for my life along side us.
They put in a catheter, unmedicated, to induce labour. It does not work. It is the second worst pain. Nothing tops the liver. They put me on pitocin, I feel a few contractions but it is a bit like having a foot run over my a car and being concerned with the paper cut on your hand. Inconsequential. I can see by the faces of my family members and husband that they are fighting the doctor to have it be understood that this pain cannot be sustained. That we need to investigate the “upper quadrant” pain further and that action must be taken. It falls on deaf ears. The doctor refuses to listen to us. I remember snippets of this time, being told to rest and the being poked, prodded and touched every minute. Can you sleep while someone checks your cervix? Me neither. As if sleep is possible when you are holding your baby in your belly knowing these moments are the last. When you are told to shift in bed, and you feel the baby’s body slump inside you, lifeless. Sickening. I am bitter, enraged, in quiet agony.
Shift change occurs. A new group of what feels like 20 some people to touch, power trip, not listen to me and tell me what to do. I was less then enthused. That was until I met my new doctor. I tell him about the pain, my midwife, now renewed along side my sister are in the hall with him explaining, fighting, advocating. He actually listens. Induction continues, however, he starts to run tests. It is now mid-morning on February 8th, 2011, and the pain increases ever more. I am dilated about 5 centimetres, the contractions are not even noticeable next to the excruciating pain ripping through my right side, my ribs, back and neck. We do an ultrasound and they see blood in my abdomen, they then order a CT. Now the room is spinning, every person imaginable is there. My tiny delivery room is packed with people, my ineffective pain medication is stopped and they transfer me to another bed to wheel me to CT. My parents are terrified, my sister is somehow holding on to everyone with fear in her eyes. I clutch Matt’s hand as we are run down to CT. I moan on the table; the pain increasing as they visualize my liver. They finally know what we have all along, I am dying. Part of me wish I could die along side my baby, but I will never leave my Matthew.
I am taken back to my room and I met with my OB and a new face. A beautiful face, my liver specialist. He is an incredible man, soft spoken, powerful and kind. He tells me they must transfer me to a nearby hospital where he is the head liver transplant specialist. My OB, the man I credit with saving my life, tell me you are dying, and we must save you. That an OB will deliver the baby by C section, the liver specialist will access my liver to stop the bleeding. My mother breaks down in the hall, my husband is in shock. I take my father’s hand and ask him to pray with me. After a quiet prayer we transferred to a hospital a few blocks away. I pray in the ambulance, Matthew is with me. Running down the halls of the new hospital we are met by a team of surgeons. They say Matthew has to stay here and that I must go. I take his hand in mine, and promise him I will fight, I will never leave him. I tell him I love him and hold onto us for me. We cry as we separated.
I will not discuss here what occurred before the surgery. It is too heinous for me to write.
I am placed under anaesthesia, and Matthew and my family got to meet our sweet darling Ava. They held her, loved her when I could not. My father took photographs of her, which I treasure to this day. My brother was there, after a grue ling 6 hour drive. They hold our girl and together mourn. The liver specialist stabilized my liver, and had to go back into surgery on Thursday, February 10th, 2011 to ensure I was stable. I was kept in the ICU with my family and my Matthew by my side.
I would be in a coma for 3 days. I would not awake again until Friday, February 11th, 2011 and would not hold my daughter until February 12th, 2011.