Thursday, July 17, 2003

We just experienced a close call. A very, very close call.

On Tuesday afternoon, my daughter had a scheduled appointment for her routine two-week examination. When we were walking out of the pediatric department, my wife felt a sharp, stabbing pain in her abdomen. We immediatly went over to the OBGYN department, from where she was sent to ultrasound. The ultrasound showed her uterus only partly contracted, a large amount of fluid in there and a bright spot, indicating a likely bleeding.

She was immediatly admitted to the same-day department, and an hour later she went in for a procedure, which was supposed to take 10-15 minutes, to clear out what was believed to be remnants of the placenta. We were pretty cool about it, since this is a fairly common procedure, short and low-risk. I waited for her in the surgery waiting room.

The 10-15 minutes passed. So did half an hour. An hour went by. After 1 1/2 hours, the surgeon came out and said "We better sit down". I paniced. She started to describe how they had started the procedure by dilating the cervix to get to what was in her uterus. First, out came the fluid that had been stuck in there. Then the bleeding started.

She bled continously through the operation. All their attempts to stopped it failed. They tried every medication in the book to get the uterus to contract, but to no avail. When she had lost more than half her entire blood volume, they started thinking about drastic measures. They started putting balloons up into her uterus, and blowing them up, in an attempt to stop the bleeding through counter-pressure. When that didn't seem to work, they prepared the interventional radiology team for an emergency procedure to stop blood flow to her uterus completely. They also started to prepare for having her uterus removed. Completely.

After the fourth balloon had been inflated in her uterus, the bleeding finally began to subside. Having lost such massive amounts of blood, she was in an extremely weakened state, and her blood pressure went down to 70 over 29. It stayed low through the night, and when she didn't seem to be recovering blood pressure and hemoglobin volume by herself in the morning (yesterday), it was decided to start giving her blood transfusions. That did stabilize her, and her blood pressure started to slowly go up again.

Yesterday afternoon and night, she stayed stabilized, even recovered a little. She was still really beat though, and could hardly sit up, let alone stand up. This morning, even though her blood pressure was off the lows, her hemoglobin levels were still critical. So more transfusions were ordered, and have been given to her through the day. That seems to have finally started to move her towards recovering, to the point were optimists are guessing she might be able to go home tomorrow.

In any case, she has a considerable recovery period ahead of her, probably some weeks. And there is also the risk of infection from having foreign objects in her uterus for almost 20 hours. So we're not home yet, but at least we're out of the woods. She is safe, and the outlook is good.

We hope we'll be able to look back on this in a few years and go "Yes, what was that all about?" More likely though, this will become the stuff of my nightmares.