Ariane Audet

Heather, Sunbury PA (USA)

Ariane Audet
Heather, Sunbury PA (USA)

I have a chronic bleeding disorder that I was diagnosed with at childhood. Even though I grew out of it as I got older, when I became pregnant with my daughter, I was deemed high risk. If I were to get something that would cause me to bleed, it’s always a big concern because my body attacks my platelets and I don’t clot. At the same time, I also have a clotting disorder that conflicts with the previous one. Pregnancy can make both worst in adulthood, so I was monitored very closely. I’m from Central PA and there's pretty much only one health system network that provides care. My conditions are noted everywhere in my charts. Thankfully, nothing was triggered by the pregnancy, and it went fairly smoothly. I ended up having to be induced, and labor was misery. It went on for two and a half days. I wasn’t dilating, the epidurals didn’t work, and I felt everything. In the end, I was throwing up between each push and my mom had to hold my legs because I was so weak. Our daughter was 8 pounds coming out. The cord was wrapped around her three times, and she had swallowed meconium during labor, so I knew there was going to be a NICU team as I was delivering, but it was still stressful. I also hemorrhaged right after birth. Have you seen The Shining? It was like that: blood on the walls, on the doctors’ faces, all over the floor… it looked like somebody had been brutally murdered. The two residents who were my doctors didn’t seem too worried, but I had severe pain in my stomach, and they told me they couldn’t get the placenta out. They massaged it for almost half an hour. During that time, I couldn’t even hold my daughter because I was barely conscious. They finally got the placenta out, but I passed out as they were removing the needle from the epidural. I ended up needing two blood transfusions. By the time we were ready to go home, they said “You probably could stand another one, but you’re technically stable.” I had been in the hospital for five days. I wanted to be home with my baby. I wanted a shower. So, I just said, “You know what, I’m fine. If you think I’m stable, I don’t want another one.” And we left.

Heather_Faces_of_Postpartum_2

I will take full responsibility for going back home that time. I was not in great shape, but we had a good support system, and I don’t know what I would have done without them. I was also on Lovenox, which is a blood thinner, for the disorder and because postpartum women have a higher risk of clotting. I had to give myself injections every day for 8 weeks. I had asked my doctors if it wasn’t risky because of the blood transfusions, but they said it was okay, that I would just bleed a little bit more heavily. So, a couple of weeks went by, and my bleeding was still heavy. I was passing some decent size clots. The nurse, during my discharge, said that if anything bigger than a half a dollar was coming out, I had to call. The first one I passed was the size of a golf ball. Obviously, I called and talked to a doctor, but I was told it was just the uterus shedding off the last lining. I trusted her recommendation. She told me to call back if it happened again. Another week went by, and then I passed another one the size of a softball. I was freaking out. I called and talked to the same doctor, who then told me she thought I was having my period. Who am I to argue? So, I just kept “monitoring it.” I eventually made an appointment at the hospital where I delivered. By then, it had happened again, but everybody I called never made it seem like I was in danger. My mom came with me to the appointment. The doctor I saw was an OB – I had never seen him before. He checked my stitches and said he didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. I told him that before I’d come to the hospital, I’d soaked my jeans and the five pads I was wearing; it was definitely not normal. He finally agreed to send me for stat lab, blood works, and an ultrasound. But it was 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Radiology wouldn’t see me because they were too busy so I had to go to another hospital. Before I left, I'd asked the OB if someone would have the time to read my results today. He literally looked at the clock and said, “Well, I leave in an hour, so I don’t know.” He told me that he would contact me right away if anything looked suspicious. I never got the call.

Heather_Faces_of_Postpartum_3

My hospital has an online account where I can see my results. I checked them the following morning and read that the ultrasound showed “retained products of conception” in my uterus. Yet, nobody had called from radiology. I contacted the OB's office. He wasn’t in yet, but I told the receptionist that I was going to need a D&C and needed to know where to go from there. I hung up and texted my husband at work, letting him know to be prepared because there was a good chance I’d have to go to the hospital. So I’m home by myself with my one-month old. I’m putting clothes away in our bedroom, and then I felt a gush. I ran into the bathroom, and it was just everywhere. I sat on the toilet, and it sounded like I was peeing. It would not stop for 15 minutes. I have to add that I’m not a big phone person. I usually leave it somewhere in my house, but for whatever reason, it was laying on my bed before I had to run in the bathroom, and I grabbed it. The blood eventually slowed down, but it looked like a crime scene. I got into the shower to try to clean up but started hemorrhaging again, feeling dizzy and nauseous. I sat down and turned the water on cold, and when I looked down, I had a clot the size of a basketball between my thighs. I didn’t think to call 911. Instead, I called my mom. She’s a nurse, so she told me to call 911, but I didn’t want to hang up. So she stayed with me on the line, but I don’t remember much of our conversation. I was going in and out and point, not making much sense. And then it occurred to me that my daughter was downstairs and that I couldn’t get to her. I thought, “This is it, I’m never going to see her again. She’s never going to know I existed, all because nobody took me seriously.” She’d slept through the whole thing, but I started panicking, and my mom said, “That’s it, I’m calling 911.” By the time the MT’s got there, I had lost several pints of blood. They had to give me an IV before getting me out of the bathtub because my blood pressure was so low. I was literally hemorrhaging to death.

Heather_Faces_of_Postpartum_4

I ended up having an emergency D&C because of retained placenta. The hospital doesn’t have enough beds, so I was sent home that night. My iron levels were depleted and, for the following six months, I had to get iron transfusions, which made me very sick. I was also diagnosed with PTSD. To this day, I still can’t take a shower if I’m alone in the house. I see a psychologist, and she’s wonderful, so I’m lucky for that. My health still isn’t the best, but I’m getting better. Thankfully I had a lot of support from my family. Now, I want to create awareness. I had called for weeks, bleeding and passing clots, being told to “monitor it.” The doctor I saw that day didn’t want to take the time to read my results or make sure someone would. It could easily have been prevented, but I felt like I was “that neurotic woman,” calling again. I know it happens because I’ve heard them talk about patients like that. But this is difficult to have any medical malpractice case, let alone in obstetrics. Lawyers don’t want to take your case because the payout isn’t good enough. To be fair, when I was in the bathtub that morning, the OB actually called me back. I picked up the phone, and he asked me how I was feeling. I told him: ‘Not well, I’m hemorrhaging and my mom called an ambulance.’ He went: “Well, if you feel it it’s necessary, then that’s a good idea.” In his notes – because I have all my records now – he wrote he’s the one who advised me to call 911… It’s hard because now I don’t want to have more kids. I’ve done a lot of research on how often this happens, and I might not be as lucky next time. My daughter is the best kid and, obviously, it was all worth it. But she will more than likely be an only child, or I will adopt. After it happened, I joined pretty much every support group I could find. I’m planning on filing my own Pro se legal claim. I’m a Christian and I 100% believe that I’m meant to be on this earth to do something because I should have died that day, and I didn’t. And the thought of it being done to somebody else… it just breaks my heart.