accreta experience: Rohelia Letscher
The importance of family and laughter to getting through accreta
Laughter. Although by no means a laughing matter, that is what you would’ve heard in the car on an evening in January 2018 as my father drove me to my second MRI scan.
I was diagnosed with placenta accreta at 19 weeks, in November of 2018, with my 3rd pregnancy. We were at the hospital for a routine anatomy scan for baby boy #3 when I was told that he was healthy, but I was not. The doctor assigned to the sonogram area communicated that I had a partial placenta previa and the increased vascularity between my previous c-section incision and the placenta signaled placenta accreta. He continued to state that the goal was that I don’t bleed to death and to get me “off the operating table” alive. As much as my husband pleaded with the doctor to help soften the blow to his noticeably distressed wife, this doctor’s bedside manner continued to be subpar to say the least.
Nonetheless, there we were with this gut-wrenching prognosis. At a follow-up visit with my OB who had delivered my previous two children, she walked into the room saddened to inform me that the scans were confirmed and that I did in fact have placenta accreta. She immediately put me on pelvic rest, assigned me a maternal-fetal medicine specialist (MFM) and then started the ticking time bomb. From that point on, my mental health started to spiral out of control. It was torture knowing that I could have a major bleed at any time and that I could possibly die leaving my boys, then 3 and 4, my husband and my father. In addition to all this, my mother passed away 3 months prior to this pregnancy. This was supposed to be a happy time and some good news to help with the mourning process. And now, I had to mourn her and wrap my head around that I may join her in death. Simply put, I was horrified!
I couldn’t continue like this. I couldn’t be present and in the moment for myself, my family and even the baby growing beautifully in my tummy. I would talk to him, crying, apologizing that my state of mind was deteriorating. I had to do something. I now had 15 weeks (delivery was scheduled for 34.5) to prepare myself for what was to come. I researched and advocated for myself. As many know, the maternal health crisis is a serious issue in the US especially for women of color (ME!). With my husband’s help, I started doing a lot of research on placenta accreta. We wanted to understand the proper treatment for the condition, the risks I would face and the potential complications after surgery. My husband, who never wavered and was my rock and health advocate, attended my appointments ensuring we asked the right questions and challenging the doctors when answers did not fall in line with the research we had previously performed. My father was instrumental as well, driving me to and from appointments and coming to my rescue when I would spiral out of control mentally. In our research, we learned that multiple disciplines are required in the room with placenta accreta. In those 15 weeks, we met with my OB (regularly), the OB oncologist, urologist, anesthesiologist and the NICU team to fully understand what we were facing.
I also tried as best I could to get a grip on my mental health. I strongly relied on faith, therapy and group and individual meditation sessions. I even went to a surgery meditation specialist who recorded our session so that I could use it at home. I tried to fill my mind with as much encouragement and affirmations as I could which helped limit the times I would circle out of control. My husband, my father and friends were also key in allowing me to vent about the fears I had. Releasing the negative thoughts rather than holding them in served me well.
Early diagnosis allowed not only my doctors to plan, but for me to plan and arrange a support system after surgery. We flew in my in-laws, scheduled caregivers and even had a doula come in at night to help with the baby for the first week or two. Friends and family also provided meals in the first couple of weeks post-surgery. In addition, I continued my therapy sessions post-surgery. It helped and continues to help me process the trauma I went through. Not only did I just survive a life-threatening complication, I had postpartum hormones raging through my body.
The outcome? Although I did end up with placenta percreta, the worst of all 3 conditions, I did really well considering the circumstances. I endured the birth, a partial hysterectomy (all that remain are my ovaries) and bladder repair. In addition, I lost close to all of my blood supply requiring a massive blood transfusion. Our team of 19 doctors and nurses in the OR did an outstanding job of caring for our baby boy and putting me back together especially the anesthesiology team who were prepared for anything. Everything was managed so well that I did not require an ICU stay and went directly to the postpartum maternity ward. I stayed a total of 7 days in the hospital with a smooth recovery and no complications.
Baby Boy Idris was a Rockstar! Although he was born at 34 weeks, he had an APGAR score of 9 at birth and only required a 10-day stay in the NICU even though we were prepared to face apprx. a 6-week stay. He has had no complications and at 16-months is a thriving little guy full of spunk and charisma.
As my Dad saw me suffer through my pregnancy, he would always try to make me laugh and enjoy the moments we shared. And now the laughter continues with deep gratitude for the blessings we have today. Having lived through the trauma of a major obstetric complication, I know how difficult it can be. But don’t lose hope and try to smile. You will get through it!
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Rohelia Letscher lives in the DC Metro area with her husband and 3 boys ages 6, 4, and 16 months. Although she works as a Senior Manager in Finance and Accounting, she has a true passion for helping people and believes in an inclusive and diverse world. She hopes her placenta percreta experience helps mothers, especially minority mothers, who face disparities (racial or other) during their pregnancy and postpartum care.