On the 18th of June, my baby Marcella was born early at 36 weeks, and my life was hanging in the balance.
Marcella is my 7th child, and the pregnancy with her was a turbulent one at best.
At 7 weeks into the pregnancy I was serving breakfast to my then 2-year-old and then I felt a gush. Thinking that I may have peed myself as pregnant women do, I ran to the toilet. It was there I discovered I was bleeding. I thought “this is it – I’m losing my baby”. Next came out a lemon-sized clot, which looked to be containing my baby. Over the next few days and weeks we discovered we had lost one of our twins, and I was still carrying one baby, and having a SCH (subchorionic haemorrage).
As the months passed I had another 10 bleeds, which resulted in a trip back to the hospital each time to check if I was still carrying a live baby. At the 20-week scan it was discovered that I had complete placenta previa, where the placenta sits at the bottom of the uterus. I was thankful when I got to 24 weeks and my baby at least had a chance of life. I was then grateful when I got to 32 weeks, which meant I could stay in my area to deliver and be near my family, should she come early.
As the pregnancy progressed I spoke with doctors about the chance of me having placenta accreta – a serious pregnancy condition that occurs when blood vessels and other parts of the placenta grow too deeply into the uterine wall – there was a slight chance but they didn’t think I did have it.
Then on the 18th of July I was sitting at home with my children and I felt another gush. My heart sank. I knew I was bleeding. I went to the toilet to check and blood was pouring out. My children helped me call an ambulance, my husband and someone to come and watch them.
I was rushed directly into the OR, where Marcella was deliver immediately and they turned their attention to saving my life. It turned out that I not only had complete placenta previa, and also percreta (the worst of accreta) and my placenta had grown through my uterus, and attached to my urethra, bladder and major blood vessels in the area.
It took a team of doctors and specialists, five days on life support, 23 hours of surgery, a full hysterectomy, bladder and urethra repair, and a massive blood transfusion of 54 units of blood and 80 blood products, (a total of around 134 donations) to save my life.
This was a trying time for everyone involved; the doctors explained that I was very lucky to be here, as fast as they were putting the blood in, I was losing it. Due to all the blood, it was hard for them to find where the placenta ended and I began. Under the belief that I probably wasn’t going to make it, the NICU nurses brought down my baby and put her on my chest, so we could have some time together before I died, and my family and baby would have some memento to remember me by. The moment they put her on my chest I responded, I rubbed my chin on the top of her head, and that is when I started to improve.
I am very glad to be here today to be able to tell my story. Since coming home from hospital and starting to move on with my life I have become the President of the Australian Chapter of the Hope for Accreta Foundation. Through which I am helping many women and families going through a similar experience. The Hope for Accreta Foundation will hold its first international blood drive on the 9th of January 2015, involving six countries. Without the donations of so many people I would not be here today.