I had just moved to Ireland and was almost 31 weeks pregnant when I was admitted to the local maternity hospital with severe neck pain. I had assumed I had a stiff neck from our 11 hour flight from South Africa. It was so bad I could barely move by the time we went to the hospital. My pain was a 10 out of 10. (Sepsis and Pregnancy & Childbirth)
The next 2 days were a haze. The only thing that relieved some pain was intravenous Paracetamol and when that was finished, the agony would return. On the second day, I spiked a temperature and my bloods came back positive for staphylococcus. I was started on an antibiotic and transferred to another hospital for an MRI for suspected meningitis. I had low platelets and could not have a lumbar puncture.
I was in respiratory distress in the A & E and put on oxygen. I was transferred to ICU where the doctors kept on telling me I was extremely sick. Breathing was really difficult at this point and I was told I was going to have an emergency caesarean and the baby would be ok. While I was scared, I was relieved as they said they’d put me under general anesthetic and all I could think about was not having to battle to breathe anymore, they had warned me about a ventilator as I kept taking my oxygen mask off (I’m a bit claustrophobic). I don’t even remember being in pain anymore.
I went into theatre and suffered a cardiac arrest at inception of the anesthetic. My son was born while I had CPR. I went without oxygen for 5 minutes and in that time suffered multiple border zone strokes. My circulation returned, I was put on a ventilator, dialysis and all forms of life support available. A chest x-ray before going into theatre showed cavitary pneumonia. (Sepsis and Pneumonia) I also had a clot in my brachiocephalic vein. I was in septic shock.
My family was told my condition was life threatening and possibly not compatible with survival. I had another cardiac arrest 4 days later but didn’t need adrenaline and I had to have temporary pacing wires to help when my heart rate dropped. I was awake and trying to communicate 12 days in. I had a tracheostomy as I couldn’t tolerate the tube when regaining consciousness. When I fully woke up, I couldn’t speak and I couldn’t move my limbs. My doctor referred to it as man in a barrel syndrome.
I was on intravenous antibiotics for 6 weeks for the bacterial infection. (Sepsis and Bacterial Infections) Clotting drugs for 3 months. I was in ICU for 4 weeks, High care for 2 weeks, the hospital rehab for 3 weeks and the national rehabilitation hospital for 6 weeks. I got to go home to my partner and baby on the 22nd February 2019. I still faced many challenges as I couldn’t lift and carry my son, I couldn’t feed, change or bath him either. I still have some residual right sided weakness which is worse when I am tired or cold, my short term memory is horrendous and fatigue continues to affect me.
My illness still baffles me. I had an abscess under my arm for 2 weeks before falling ill and I had been on an antibiotic, but it was pretty much healed. There has never been a firm diagnosis as to what happened. I’ve never been in so much pain in my life but I didn’t think I was dying. This journey has changed my life in so many ways and continues to show me how strong I can be. We continue with our struggles as our son didn’t get out of this unaffected. He has cerebral palsy but he too is so strong! We are grateful for every day. It’s taken me 2 years to process this life changing event and I know there is more fight ahead, but I’m confident we’ll come out on top.