• Eleni Mak

My Brush With Death....How I Survived.

I always pictured having three kids. Although I was scared to have a third because I wasn't convinced I could handle it, I truly didn't feel my family was complete with two kids. I felt like there was a piece missing.

In September 2011 I found out I was pregnant with our third child. I was happy, scared and nauseous all at the same time. Happy because we had another baby on the way, nauseous at the fact that I was about to get fat again and nauseous at the thought that I wouldn't be able to have a glass of wine for another eight months!

My first trimester was a carbon copy of my previous pregnancies. I had a lot of bleeding. It wasn't a big deal because this was the norm for me. I just needed to rest for a few weeks and it would subside after the first trimester. I was off work taking it easy. In mid-December I went back to work but after a week the bleeding started again and this time much worse. My OB took me off work again and suggested we do an MRI. She was concerned about a possible abnormality with the placenta called Placenta Accreta. She pleaded with me not to Google this but of course, I googled it in the elevator as I left her office (sorry Elyse!)

So now I was scared. We talked about doing a complete hysterectomy at the time of delivery in order to prevent a large amount of blood loss. She explained that trying to remove the placenta from my uterus (as they normally do with a C-section) could cause a large amount of blood loss so instead we would just remove the uterus. She assured me it would be fine because we are prepared... right! She may have been prepared but I was terrified.

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On January 18, 2012 I had my 18-week scan. My OB was so great that she called me that same night at home to tell me that the baby was perfect (another girl!) and that although she does see something "funny" with my placenta I should not worry. Everything will be fine. WHAT A RELIEF.... I was on cloud nine. Who wouldn't be, right? My happiness though was short lived.

That night, we put the girls to bed as usual and went to sleep. At about midnight I woke up and felt the bed beneath me was very warm. I had no pain so it was strange. I got up and as I did, I realized there was blood everywhere. I rushed to the bathroom but couldn't stop the bleeding. Imagine turning on the bathtub faucet at full range... that's what it was like. I grabbed bath towels and slowly made it back to my bed. I woke my husband up and he quickly got up and... just as quickly dropped to the ground. YES... he $*%$ing passed out! I screamed at him to get up and he did, just before he dropped to the ground again. I realized he was no help to me and after yelling a few choice words at him I grabbed the phone and dialed 911. I stayed on the phone with the operator until the paramedics showed up. I can say with confidence that considering the fact that my bedroom looked like a murder scene from a Quentin Tarantino movie, I was relatively calm until... I saw the look on the paramedics faces. They were stunned, not even sure what to make of the situation. They took my vitals and to the hospital we went. I remember the emergency doctor being a bit of an ass... okay, he was a complete ass. At one point I asked him why I was in the resuscitation unit and his response was "people die from this you know? we are just taking appropriate precaution." WHAT??? People die from being pregnant? What in the world was he talking about? I was shaking. I was cold and now in a full-blown panic.

They were able to control the bleeding and after a few blood transfusions I was admitted and taken up to a room.

The next day I had an MRI and my OB came to explain the findings. She explained that I had something called "placenta percreta." In short, the placenta had attached to the wall of my uterus. It had invaded the uterine wall and attached onto my bladder. I could not even understand how this is possible but it was.

These were my choices -- I could stay in the hospital until I was full-term (which would be another 20-weeks) at which time we would deliver the baby and have a complete hysterectomy. My doctor explained that her concern with this would be me experiencing THE BIG BLEED while in the hospital and not having proper staff to deal with it. My life and the baby's life would be in danger.

THE BIG BLEED?!!?!?!? You mean what I had just experienced wasn't considered THE BIG BLEED? What did the big bleed look like then?

The second option was to terminate the pregnancy in a controlled environment with a team of surgeons that she would hand pick to ensure that we had the best people possible working with her. Her exact words to me at one point were, "this is a once in a career thing, it's not something we see often, especially not at this stage in pregnancy so we really don't know what to expect." So reassuring -- why I am suddenly feeling like a research project and experiment or some sort? I must be clear, my OB acted in a way that saved my life. From the second I was taken to emergency, she was there and she jumped through hoops to ensure we were fully informed and knew what we were dealing with. Dr. Elyse Lackie is more than a doctor as far as I am concerned; she is an incredible person with incredible skill and knowledge in her field.

That night and the next day my husband spent all our time deliberating. His mind was made up...surgery now! He did not even want to consider the possibility of me trying to carry this baby to term knowing the risks involved. "We have two babies at home that need you... I need you" he said.

Although I knew in my gut he was right, I was so torn inside because it meant I was terminating a perfectly healthy pregnancy to save my life. What mother puts herself before her child? I fought with this a great deal and still do today but, in the end I had to do what was right for the two little girls that were waiting for me at home. They were 4 and 2 at the time and were very confused to wake up and find that mommy was gone -- another weight on my shoulders while trying to decide what to do.

The next morning we talked to my OB and told her our decision to terminate the pregnancy and have a complete hysterectomy. She agreed that she thought we were making the right choice and quickly put together a team of senior surgeons that included a senior OB, herself and a urologist. She booked the OR for a Sunday morning with the hopes that there would be nobody else there and disruptions would be minimal.

At 8:00 a.m. on Sunday, January 21, 2012 I was rolled into the OR. Just before they took me out of the room, my nurse took my hand and looked me in the eyes; she said, "this too shall pass." I remember everything, even the smell. I remember all the people that were there, what they looked like and of course how I felt.

I knew full well that there was a big chance I would not survive this surgery and that it was very risky but... the alternate choice (or lack of) held a much more grim possibility. Although I knew this, there was an eerie calm about me. I even remember joking with the anesthetist just before he knocked me out. It was like I knew my time was not up deep inside.

The surgery was about six hours long and I lost a lot of blood. I had a few transfusions and thankfully my bladder recovered and I would not need a catheter. Within a week I was home and now... the recovery started. It was somewhat reassuring when the senior surgeon came by to see me and said, "You made the right choice. You would not have survived if we waited. The blood loss would have been much worse and you and the baby would have died."

My recovery process has been ongoing over the last three years and continues. Much of what I will write about will have to do with what I have learned about myself, life, death, family, spirituality and many other things through my healing process.

Having been faced with such a decision and circumstance has inevitably changed me to the core and continues to do so to this day. I don't think I will ever stop growing and learning from it. I have "aha moments" all the time. I still try to understand why this happened to me and from the questions I ask myself I get answers... new ones, different ones, hard ones and great ones.

My message, friends, is every hardship brings new awareness, and strength you never imagined you had. Those days in the hospital were some of the most difficult days in my life but I got through it. I am here and I am stronger for it. Does it still hurt? It hurts like hell and it always will but I know with clarity today that I made the right choice. The choice to be alive! When we are faced with difficult situations in life we have two choices.

"You've got two choices, you can either sit and cry or spread your wings and fly."

I choose to spread my wings and fly because the alternative would be worse than if I had died that day.



~ Dedicated to our baby Nicole -- in our hearts and thoughts always and forever... xoxo

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