Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Even When Peace Has Been Made

There was a time on the day of Jack's birth where a nurse came into my room and one by one, placed pillows around my whole body. I remember at least eight pillows in total. She did not say a word. As soon as she placed the pillows, she exited the room. At that point in time, I had not yet been told what my diagnosis was, and they had been treating me up to this point as a swine flu victim. As soon as the nurse left, I looked at Jon and said "do they think I'm going to have a seizure?" To this day, I have no idea where my prior knowledge of this came from, but I instinctively knew what was happening.

Soon after, my OB walked in the room and with tears in her eyes, finally told me the devastating news. Pre-Eclampsia and HELLP Syndrome. She said over and over again how sorry she was. She said my life was at incredible risk and that I needed an emergency c-section within a couple of hours. Pre-E's cruelty is that the only cure is not being pregnant. Then she told me my baby was not viable and to prepare myself. That it took her 8 precious hours to come to this conclusion, I will never know. I was then life-flighted to another hospital.

Fast forward a couple years and I am sitting at our kitchen table, pouring over medical records. I have not written previously about this at all, but we felt there was negligence surrounding my prenatal care and especially, the care I received on the day of Jack's birth. In deciding if we wanted to embark upon an actual legal suit, we had requested all of my medical records, both from my OB's office and the hospital. We had to sit and read through each excruciating detail that was charted throughout my care. I had to read about coming in that morning and immediately, without test, being treated as a highly contagious flu patient. I had to read about being isolated in one end of the hospital, in a room with no private bathroom and no sheets on the bed. I had to read that I was put on isolation precaution, the results that I had to gown up, put a mask and gloves on, and cross the hallway each time I needed to use the public bathroom to vomit. I had to read that they, indeed, checked my blood pressure. Over and over, in fact. It was quite high and only increased throughout the day. They knew I was pregnant, but still managed to miss the connection between high BP and Pre-E until it was much too late. I had to read about their attempt after attempt to get an IV going. And on top of all of that, the hardest blow - I had to see with my own eyes just how long they waited to check my urine, one of the most important steps. For my precious boy, I had to read that they missed the window of opportunity for steroids for his lungs. Finally, I had to read my diagnosis and "baby not viable".

Having an attorney for a husband was such blessing in this regard, because he made me realize that if we wanted to go through with this, then we had to be realistic. He described the process of a medical malpractice lawsuit. The years it would take. The resources it would take. The fact that I would have to continually be called upon to relive the worst day of my life. Over and over again. In hearings, in front of opposing and questioning counsel, and possibly, in a much more public way than I was prepared for. That reason alone was enough for me to make peace and accept what happened, even if it did not feel like justice.

A year or so after reading through my medical records, one of my worst fears came true. I came face to face with my OB, the person who failed me as a patient and especially, failed my son. Incredibly, this happened at a church of all places. We were sitting just rows apart. Even more-so incredible in my mind was that the doctor did not recognize me, although we did make eye contact. No recollection crossed this person's face. I'd be dishonest if I'd say not a bad thought crossed my mind about this person while I was sitting in that church. About her thoughts on "viability." About the way she runs her practice.

The thing about this whole story, which is really just a small part of Jack's birth story, is that I have not thought about these details in years. Then tonight, for some reason as I was drifting off to sleep, it came to mind. I had a vision about the pillows being placed around me. It is so strange, but that is the thing about these horrific events. The memories can creep in, even when peace has been made. We don't forget. Sometimes all we can do is remember, write it out, and head back to sleep.

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S said...

I am a first-time visitor to your blog (found you through BB, who was pregnant at the same time as me back in 2011/2012). It's interesting that this post is the first one I read because, like your husband, I am an attorney with familiarity with medical malpractice suits.

Your son Jack is lovely, and as someone who also developed preeclampsia during her pregnancy (though fortunately further along), I feel for what you went through giving birth to him. I think it makes total sense that you would still have some strong emotions related to that experience.

Shannon said...

The thing about PTSD - and I do believe we, who have survived these traumas, suffer from it - is that it creeps in without notice when we least expect it. Sometimes, the oddest times or the strangest things can bring visions or feelings or even smells back and you feel like you're in that moment. I get it, Jessi - all of it.

Anonymous said...

Jessi, I'm Vanessa (I shared my blog with you a while back about my son, a 33 weeker preemie- maybe you remember?)... Anyway, oh this post has brought tears to my eyes. You are so brave. You are so strong. So fragile and sensitive, but so admirable and so inspiring, too. I don't even know what I want to say; I sitting here with tears in my eyes. What a story you just shared! Beautifully written. If I say find beauty and strength in the trauma, does that mean anything to you? Your wisdom is so, so precious! Thank you for sharing!

Marianne said...

This post brought tears to my eyes. Oh my gosh I can't believe you were treated like that. High blood pressure in pregnancy = check a urine immediately!!! I had pre-e and also was forced to induce early, luckily much farther along than you. PIH settled in at 30 weeks resulting in bedrest, with pre e holding off until 35 weeks.
You are a better person than I am. I would've probably cornered her after church and had a talk.

Athena said...

I was washing my hands at work the other day in a big metal sink, and as I was rinsing up to my elbows the flashback hit. Its been 4 years since I delivered my 27 weeker due to severe hellp but those moments still creep in. I get it.

Anonymous said...

My doctor also missed pre-e/HELLP syndrome. I was given medicine for heartburn when I was actually experiencing the pain of an enflamed liver capsule. I was fortunately at the end of the pregnancy and went into labor on my own (they didn't discover my sky-high blood pressure until I was in labor). The same doctor also missed in her newborn exam that my daughter has a chromosome disorder. This doctor attends our synagogue and I've wanted to confront her with how she risked my life and our daughter missed out on some early intervention, but I've decided to just make peace and move on. I take comfort in the fact that she no longer takes OB patients(she just does regular family medicine now).


NewMom said...

O man. Mine was also almost overlooked, actually they sent me home. My BP went down. I read later in medical articles that it is normal for BP to go down when you get those golden steroid shots, but later sky rocket again. We only went back to the hospital b/c my husband said I looked "funny" again. There are so many "what-ifs." I'm sorry your signs were missed : ( Love your blog Jessi.... and keep truckin in school!!

Lora said...

3 years later I still have PTSD flashbacks from my pre-eclampsia ordeal. It'll happen during the most random times, driving my daughter to pre-school, being just almost asleep at night. It is agonizing to go back to that hospital, so many friends had babies in that neck year and I literally couldn't breathe. My post-partum pre-eclampsia was overlooked and blown off by a nurse on call at my doctor's clinic. They finally admitted me because I was vomiting so much, but the vomit had nothing to do with my BP. It was an allergic reaction to Milk Thistle capsules. I accidentally grabbed those instead of Blessed Thistle for milk production. (Because my vision was so blurry!) I'm sure glad I made that mistake!

I found our medical files when we moved last month. Going over them told me we'd never sue Wesley Hospital because I just couldn't handle looking at them.