I’m writing this, not to scare monger but simply because until it happened to me I was totally unaware of it existing in this way.
Eloise was born on the 1st August 2014. A great birth (compared to the last one!). She was induced and with me heavily ‘epiduraled up’ I got through all the stages fine and managed to push my own baby out into this world. And within 12 hours, we were home (where I wanted to be) and life was good and everything felt just as it should after giving birth….
A couple of days later and I was at my local Midwife Led Maternity Unit. Breast feeding wasn’t going to plan, it was hideously painful, my nipples were raw and I was feeling really low. I had flu like symptoms – a temperature swinging between 36.1 and 38, I had a headache – a seriously evil headache that paracetamol couldn’t make go away. And the sweat, ALL that sweat. I was sweating so much at night that I was sleeping on towels. I relayed all this information to the Midwives and each time they asked me questions and examined me.
“Do you have pain in your abdomen?” was the question they kept asking me. “No” was my reply each time – because frankly my boobs and my head hurt the most.
I was told it was most likely to be milk fever as I wasn’t presenting any signs of mastitis. Another 2 days passed and I was frankly feeling like death warmed up. I went back to the Midwife Unit. I explained again that things hadn’t improved at all. They took a look at my stitches and decided that maybe I had an infection and sent me to see my GP.
I went to my GP. I was examined. “Do you have any pain in your abdomen?” I was asked again. “No” was my answer. And I explained about the headaches and the sweats and the temperature. Again, I was told a mild milk fever was what it probably was causing the sweating and aches. I was prescribed antibiotics for my stitches.
So. Six days had passed by now. I was feeling really, really ill. I was embarrassed to tell anyone else just how bad I felt – I mean I was clearly being oversensitive about everything….right???
On day seven, I woke at 5.30am. I had a terrifying sensation that I had lost control of my bladder. I could just feel warm liquid pouring out of my body. I had in fact haemorrhaged (the ambulance medics said it was 400-500mls). My husband called an ambulance and by the time they got there, I was not in the best shape. I was wheeled out to the ambulance and taken back to The John Radcliffe Hospital where I had had Eloise. From then on, things are quite hazy but I remember things moved quite quickly. I had suspected Sepsis – blood poisoning. Eloise was being looked after by a nurse who stood beside my bed as various people came in and out and took my temperature, measured my oxygen levels, and looked at my blood pressure – turns out I was actually suffering from Septic Shock when I arrived at the hospital. That was what I had. I had never heard of it. I certainly didn’t realise the severity of it and thank god I didn’t – it would have freaked me out if I had.
I sent this to my best friend as I was sure my eye was closing shut on its own because of the pain in my head (I think I was going a bit crazy by this point!) – but it shows what a state I was in. I even told the nurses that I thought I had a brain tumour – I have never felt pain like it.
The next thing I know I am in a ward, curtain open (and told that it would have to stay open so that nurses could observe me). Needles went in, both hands, blood was taken, swabs were taken, cultures were grown, oxygen was monitored hourly, blood pressure was monitored hourly and I was told that Eloise would be looked after by a nurse whilst I ‘rested’. All this happened whilst The Husband was at home trying to find childcare (on a weekend) so that he could come in and be with Eloise and I. I never asked any questions, I didn’t have the energy. The nurses were amazing. I lay on the bed, with my eyes shut because of the pain in my head. Hours passed, The Husband visited and sat with me and then had to return home to The Toddler. 24hrs passed I think. People came and went. BLUR BLUR BLUR. I signed consent forms, answered questions and to this day, I couldn’t tell you what they were. Eloise spent the majority of her time with the nurses. My temperature raged up and down and at my lowest moment it was 39.5 and I cried. Alot. They rigged me up to more fluids, more antibiotics – I was having fresh bags of antibiotics every couple of hour pumped into my body. At one point there were 4 needles pumping things round my body. The nurses hugged me. They bought me Eloise when I asked for her. I cried more. My head felt like it was about to explode. I still had NO pain in my abdomen.
The next morning, I was lucky that one of the most respected consultants whose care I had been under whilst pregnant was on duty. He scanned my abdomen (which STILL wasn’t sore) and within hours, I was on the operating table having an ERPC an Evacuation of Retained Products of Conception. I had 400mls of infected tissue removed from my womb and lost a further 350 mls of blood.
I came round from the operation feeling a million dollars to how I had been feeling for the previous 9 days and a couple of days later I was able to go home. I’m extremely lucky – This story has a habit of not ending so well. Someone sent me this article written by Ben Palmer who has set up Jessicas Trust in memory of his wife who died 5 days after giving birth of a frighteningly similar illness. I’m afraid it makes me cry each time I read it, but you NEED to read it.
My recuperation has been slow – especially for someone who is active and normally can’t sit still. I am writing this 2 weeks post sepsis drama and feeling better, but still not myself. I can’t seem to describe how not feeling myself feels – like I am being slightly weighed down and under par. I am being patient and keeping positive. Having Eloise with me in the hospital gave me so many reasons to be positive. HOW could you not be when this is your welcome!
If you have a fever post baby. PLEASE PLEASE go straight to your local hospital to the Maternity Assessment Unit to be checked over – bypass your Midwife, GP etc and get yourself back to a hospital. Its better to be safe than sorry and you will NOT be wasting anyones time. My story could have had a very different ending. I was extremely lucky.