accreta experience: Jeremy tillman
a father’s account of his FAMILY’s placenta accreta experience
Last Thursday, just one week ago, despite the joy of my new son to come; the day was filled with doubt, fear and helplessness. This Thursday, I awake in my wife’s hospital room to this sunrise, a joy unspeakable, and in awe at the fragility of life.
Just one week ago, my wife was 33 weeks pregnant with our 2nd son, yet also carrying a placenta growing out of control and threatening her life. We were fortunate her Placenta Percreta was diagnosed early and the thought of saving only her life wasn’t even an option; we were choosing both of their lives knowing that every day my wife would be more and more at risk of her placenta growing into a major artery, making saving her life nearly impossible. That’s an eerily haunting feeling that if I’m honest has been hell on earth. How can one dream, plan and even hope knowing losing one’s wife is a very real possibility?
Last Thursday was the pinnacle. All of our life group and family left the hospital and it was just Deb and I crying together in her room as I begged her to try to rest. The thought that this might be the last time she would see our firstborn, Miles, was overwhelming. That she would go under in just a few hours and may never get to see the baby whose life she chose over her own was unbearable. Yet, I trapped it all inside laying on a cot right by her side, thinking, “Lord, don’t let it end like this!”
But I had to be strong, right? So I pent up all of my emotion and pushed it down to a far away place, so I could continue in active doing mode. I’m a 3 on the Enneagram. It’s what we do. We achieve, we fix things, yet I could do nothing. Nothing but wait, pray, and somehow, hope. We knew we had one of the best teams of doctors and surgeons in the world. They were prepped and prepared for the worst but couldn’t be confident until they opened her up.
So Friday morning, June 14th, at 6 AM, they wheeled her away to the operating room and all I could do was wait. Best case was that the baby would be completely okay and breathing on his own, though he wasn’t quite 34 weeks yet. For Deb, best case was her placenta had not grown into her bladder or any other organs and especially not any major arteries where separating would be nearly impossible. Best case was the doctors removing her uterus but leaving one ovary so she wouldn’t go into menopause at 37 years old. That was the best case. We went into this knowing this would be our last child and that too was sobering…
Time ticked on and boom at 9:55 AM my son, Luka, was born. I was anxious but seeing him and hearing him cry was surreal. Crying meant he was likely able to breathe on his own and was not overly sedated due to the general anesthesia. By 10:15 AM, he was cleaned and heading to the NICU.
All the euphoria from his birth wore off all too soon as my level of anxiety for my wife reached an epic level. I could do nothing more than pray. I didn’t want anyone sitting with me, I wanted to sit in my pain alone as I knew it was out of my control and anyone else’s. I tried to write Spoken Word which has always been a healthy outlet for me but I could only muster a few phrases such as this:
The gap between life and death
How wide is it? A pendulum swing?
If she passes what the hell would be left?
I know two sons and joys beyond
But what would I do?
I can’t imagine life, without you
I can’t imagine life
I need our silly fights
Our slow Saturdays
You telling me to put my phone away
Home is my escape, from all the pressures I face
I can’t do it without you
Won’t do it without you
Come back to me strong!
And on Friday at 1:15pm, two doctors came to tell me that on one hand it went great and, on the other, it was the worst case of Percreta they’d ever seen. This condition isn’t very common anyway. Then they tell me she’s still sedated and open, that they weren’t going to close her just yet. That she would be sorta awake but paralyzed the entire night. Just when I thought the nightmare was over, it wasn’t. Not yet. I went to see Deb; I’m not sure it was wise. I’d never seen her like that. No one should have to see their spouse in that state. It was brutal... Yet, all along there’s this little guy reminding me there’s more going on than meets the eye. I would go to the NICU and just stare at him.
Early the next morning, I awoke and just went to the healing garden to eat, pray, reflect, write and hope.
I couldn’t muster much in the form of Spoken Word but there was a fight for life you could just feel it in the air.
There’s an eerie quietness this morning
Hardly a soul in sight
But all around this hospital, there’s a fight
A fight for life…
Another 4 hours of torture, before the docs finally came and got me, smiling like this was business as usual. They said, “All set, labs look great and we closed her up!” They also said next the ICU nurses would wake her up and it could take 4-8 hours for her to regain consciousness. But, come on man! This is Deb, my fighter, and of course within 45 min, before I could even get settled in the NICU, they called me to say, “She’s up and asking for you to get over here now!!!”
No words could express the joy despite whatever condition she was in or whatever the journey of recovery ahead would be because “meu amor” had come back to me.
My fighters… Wow! Not even a week later, catheter in her bladder, drain on her other side, IVs everywhere, she was up walking and pushing forward.
I’d learn later that Deb LOST 10 liters of blood during the surgery. The human body has between 4.5-5.5 liters of blood so she basically lost all of her blood twice. We’re fortunate that her hospital had a Massive Transfusion Protocol in place and that we had the “A” team whom were so prepared and ready not only with the 17 units of blood product she received but the means of salvaging and re-infusing her own blood lost during the operation. However, due to the speed of which they anticipated the blood loss to occur, we said yes to the use of the newer REBOA technique; even though Deb was only the 3rd or so patient in North Texas to have it used during surgery in obstetrics and it was a life saver. Can’t say enough about all of the docs. The placenta was so vascular that the trauma docs had to take over. No chance at saving an ovary so the full hysterectomy had to happen as well as taking nearly half her bladder.
Nonetheless, this early morning as the sun is shining in, I awake to light all around. The light of this wonderful sunrise, the light in the eyes of my wife and my son, Luka, whose name means “LIGHT.” Yeah, this Thursday is nothing like last Thursday. Reminding me I’ve never truly been in control. I don’t control the sunset nor the sunrise but it’s a reminder to count my blessings.
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