In a near death story of a mom and a baby we find a reminder that little things can make a big difference-
She had been hospitalized for a month, placed on bed rest for complete placenta previa. Instead of implanting higher up in the uterus, the placenta was low, completely covering the opening of the cervix. This was a potentially deadly situation for both mom and baby. Once labor started and the cervix began to open massive bleeding would occur.
Once the condition was diagnosed at 24 weeks of pregnancy the waiting began. She was placed on bed rest to stave off any contractions and cervical dilation and was to remain in the hospital until she either reached 36 weeks of pregnancy or the bleeding started. Either way the baby would be delivered by c-section, as a vaginal delivery was impossible.
I was the intern on the OB floor, responsible for rounding on each patient every day, performing deliveries and assisting on c-sections when needed. I came to know her well, as would be expected when a doctor sees a patient every day for a month. The first month had been uneventful, with no bleeding at all. We we all optimistic that things would go well. She had made it to 28 weeks, and each day that passed brought another day of maturity for the baby and an increased chance at survival.
Everything change in a moment. It was just after lunch. I had just changed from surgical scrubs into shirt and tie for my outpatient clinic that afternoon when I heard a nurse call out from the patient's room, "Dr. Barrett, she's bleeding!"
I hurried into the room. The patient lay on her back, a bedpan filled with blood between her legs. Unsure of how much blood there was, I grabbed the water pitcher from the bedside, dumped it out in the sink and poured in the contents of the bed pan. 500 cc of blood, a half of a liter. In less than 2 minutes she had lost over a unit of blood. I turned back to the patient, and watched as blood began spurting out between her legs. It was even worse than I feared. She was going to bleed to death in a matter of minutes.
I had one nurse place an urgent call for the obstetrician and another nurse call for the anesthesiologist. What else could I do? I surveyed the room and saw her single IV line. I remembered from somewhere in my training that when treating a patient in shock it was important to have at least two IV lines inserted so fluids could be rapidly administered. I turned back to the nurse, "I need a second IV, large needle, NOW!" The nurse got to work and a second line was quickly in place and fluid poured in. Moments later the anesthesiologist arrived and took over the case. I watched helplessly as they wheeled her away, the combination of my inexperience and clinic responsibilities excluding me from the operating room. I paused to whisper a prayer and went to the clinic, fearful for mom and baby. Things did not look good.
As soon as my clinic shift was over I hurried back to the hospital to check on her status. The anesthesiologist was at the nurse's station completing paperwork when I arrived. "Hey, Bart! She made it! 16 units of blood, 10 packs of platelets, but she made it, and so did the baby." I let out a sigh of relief.
She went on, "Oh, and great job getting that second IV started. She went downhill so fast that without it we would have lost her. It made all the difference."
Her words caught me off guard. I had a hard time believing that something so simple could be so important. Yet, according to her, a single needle was instrumental in saving her life.
A little thing made a big difference. I didn't think I had done much but when the time came to save her life, and the life of her child, everyone, including me, had played a part. Nurses, surgeons, anesthesiologists, lab technicians, blood bank employees, and me, a green intern, all had contributed.
It is easy to overlook bit players, but they can be important, including the bit players in the Greatest Childbirth Story ever. This Christmas, as you read the Christmas story, take some time to consider all of those who had a part in the story. Shepherds, angels, Mary, Joseph and the wise men, all had a role in the story of the amazing birth of the Savior.
A final note- Nine years ago I received an email from name I did not recognize. It read, "you do not know me, but 15 years ago, you saved the life of my sister and my mother. I just wanted to say thank you and let you know that we have not forgotten what you did for our family."
All because of a needle.
This is part 2 of 6 of the Christmas series "Amazing Childbirth Stories". It was first posted to years ago. I am sharing it again this Christmas season. Subscribe to the blog to have the future posts delivered to your inbox! Enjoy the stories? Please share with your friends on Facebook or other social media by clicking one of the share buttons. Comments and questions are always welcome.