A mother’s hor­rific tale of birth

Bay Roberts woman and baby sur­vive ‘trau­matic’ hos­pi­tal ex­pe­ri­ence

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BYMELISSA JENK­INS

Note: This story may not be suit­able for all read­ers due to graphic con­tent.

The scari­est mo­ment in Ash­ley Lewis’ life was min­utes be­fore her son Liam was born via emer­gency cesarean sec­tion.

The 26-year-old Bay Roberts res­i­dent was rushed to surgery on Oct. 30, after what she refers to as a hos­pi­tal er­ror that almost led to her and her baby’s death.

But the hard­est part for her was how she felt staff left her in the dark about what was hap­pen­ing to her.

Lewis has spent the past month pre­par­ing her­self to dis­cuss her sit­u­a­tion pub­licly, and she has de­cided she is ready.

A sec­ond look

With her pre­vi­ous two chil­dren, Lewis went into labour more than a month early.

In her preg­nancy with Liam, she hoped to go full term, but there was one small is­sue.

“On the ul­tra­sounds from the start, (the ob­ste­tri­cian) couldn’t find the pla­centa,” Lewis tells The Com­pass dur­ing a sit down in­ter­view on Dec. 2.

The week prior to giv­ing birth, she still had no idea where her pla­centa was. Be­ing so un­com­fort­able, she de­cided to take a trip to the Health Sci­ence Cen­tre in St. John’s for some clar­i­fi­ca­tion.

“They no­ticed (in St. John’s) that my pla­centa was low, but they said I could still de­liver my­self,” she ex­plains.

Lewis was sat­is­fied she could still have a nat­u­ral birth, and

thought a C-sec­tion was not likely.

Mem­brane sweep

Dur­ing her visit with her doc­tor Oct. 30, it was de­cided she would re­ceive a mem­brane sweep.

A spokesper­son from East­ern Health pro­vided the de­tails of what that pro­ce­dure in­cludes.

“Sweep­ing the mem­branes is a rel­a­tively sim­ple pro­ce­dure that can be per­formed in the doc­tor’s of­fice or clinic and is usu­ally per­formed dur­ing a rou­tine exam. The doc­tor places their fin­gers into the open­ing of the cervix and at­tempts to gen­tly sep­a­rate the am­ni­otic sac from the uterus,” the spokesper­son said.

But the pro­ce­dure did not go as planned.

“I felt a warm gush, like my wa­ter had broke,” she says.

As she lay on the ta­ble, the doc­tor checked the ul­tra­sound. The am­ni­otic sac was still around the baby.

Lewis re­calls the doc­tor say­ing they had to get to a case room “im­me­di­ately.” Her pla­centa had rup­tured and she was bleed­ing heav­ily.

“Com­pli­ca­tions caused by in­duc­tion in a de­liv­ery are very rare at East­ern Health. It is also ex­tremely rare that a physi­cian would rup­ture a woman’s pla­centa while in­duc­ing labour or sweep­ing mem­branes,” said the East­ern Health spokesper­son.

A whole lot of blood

Tak­ing a deep breath, Lewis ex­plains that she sat up, but the bleed­ing got worse.

“There was blood all over the small of­fice,” she says. “Almost ev­ery­where. Then my blood pres­sure dropped.”

The med­i­cal term for this type of bleed­ing is an­tepar­tum haem­or­rhage (APH).

In the Jour­nal of Pre­na­tal Medicine, APH is de­scribed as a “ma­jor cause of peri­na­tal mor­tal­ity and ma­ter­nal mor­bid­ity in the de­vel­oped world.”

Lewis said she was asked by a nurse to get dressed and come with her to the case room. With the amount of blood, Lewis didn’t want to put her clothes back on, fear­ing she’d just bleed through.

“She said peo­ple would see me,” she con­tin­ues. “I didn’t care. I still didn’t know what was go­ing on.”

Lewis cov­ered up and was taken to a case room in a wheel­chair. Her mother, who was in the hall wait­ing, came along.

In the case room, Lewis re­ceived an up­date from her doc­tor.

“He said, ‘You know you’re go­ing to need an emer­gency C-sec­tion now. Your life and the baby’s life is in dan­ger,’” she re­calls, not­ing he apol­o­gized to her for what was hap­pen­ing.

Lewis re­mem­bers the doc­tor stop­ping surgery prep to bring her to the op­er­at­ing room, say­ing “What­ever’s done now is done, or we’re go­ing to lose them.”

While be­ing put un­der gen­eral anes­the­sia, she heard them ask for six units of blood. She then fell asleep.

No up­dates

When she woke up, she im­me­di­ately asked how Liam was, but feels she never got a straight an­swer, just, “He’s good.”

Liam was hooked up to an IV for two days for his lungs, to help reg­u­late his breath­ing.

She still says she doesn’t have many de­tails on what she or the baby went through, but nei­ther needed a trans­fu­sion.

Lewis spent much of her time alone un­til she was dis­charged three days later. She said she just wanted to go home so she could get back to her life and her other two chil­dren.

She re­calls the doc­tor telling her when she was dis­charged it was not his fault, and he was not aware of the low-ly­ing pla­centa. Although she dis­agreed with him, she didn’t say any­thing.

East­ern Health told The Com­pass it can­not com­ment on spe­cific cases due to pri­vacy is­sues, but did pro­vide some in­for­ma­tion (see side­bar).

Scary sit­u­a­tion

After hav­ing mis­car­ried with twins last Oc­to­ber, Lewis was over­whelmed with what she ex­peri- enced, call­ing it hor­rific.

It was sev­eral days be­fore she could tell her fi­ancée Shel­don, who was work­ing in Labrador, what hap­pened.

“I had nightmares for the first week,” she says. “I still have flash­backs, but now I’m able to talk about it.”

Lewis wants all fu­ture moth­ers to know that any­thing could take place dur­ing a preg­nancy or de­liv­ery, and to be pre­pared.

“If noth­ing else, at least th­ese moms can be aware,” she says.

Liam, now a month old, is healthy and pre­par­ing to join his two sib­lings at his par­ent’s wed­ding on Dec. 19.

Sub­mit­ted photo

Ash­ley Lewis’ son Liam (pic­tured) was born by emer­gency cesarean sec­tion on Oct. 30.

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