A mother’s horrific tale of birth
Bay Roberts woman and baby survive ‘traumatic’ hospital experience
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.
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.
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).
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.
Ashley Lewis’ son Liam (pictured) was born by emergency cesarean section on Oct. 30.