Sunday, September 22, 2013

Memories of ICU

I said my last post that I would share some of the things that I went through during my recovering from the birth of my daughter. So here goes. For me, the last things I can remember where in the operating theatre. Asking the date so I would know when Marcella was born, next was being prep quickly for the operation to get her out. I had people putting needles and IV's in both arms, having another doctor do a speculum to see what they could see, being asked heaps of questions like when was the last time I eat. While being asked these questions one the of the assistants prepping me started waxing down stairs. This was a huge surprise. There was no, I'm going to do this, just rip, totally unexpected. With other c-sections I had been numb before they did that, so didn't even know that they had done it. This time because they where putting me under, which is less safe for the baby they did all the prep work and left putting me under until the very last minute. While all this was going on I was having contractions and blood was gushing out. I then remember the Anaesthetist telling me that there would be someone putting pressure on my throat so that no food would come up and choke me, and that it may feel like I'm being suffocated by the mask as I go under, and it did. I remember taking in as big and as deep of breaths as I could to get that feeling over with quickly. I only remember having to take 3 big, deep breaths.

The next thing I knew I was slowly waking up with wires, iv's, tubes, and bruises everywhere. I was still on life support. I remember having very little strength at all and being in a world of pain. The breathing tube was down my throat, and there was a soft board in my mouth. It was rigged up so that if I tried to pull the tube out I would start to gag, which alerted the nurse to what I was up to. All I wanted to do was get that tube out of my mouth. Then I had what I thought was a strong need to go to the toilet and poo. I just felt so panicked because I needed to go to the toilet but I could get my message out. Inside I was screaming for help, I need to go to the toilet. I think it took a while before anyone could understand me. When they finally did someone explained to me "no, it's ok, you don't need to go to the toilet. You have bag collecting you poo. That's what your feeling". Oh finally I could breath a sign of relief I wasn't going to poop myself. I didn't have a clue how I would go to the toilet in that state anyway. I didn't even have enough strength to touch my face. I would take all my strength to get my hand anywhere near my face to get the breathing tube out.

I was be in and out of consciousness. Every time I woke I would see a nurse sitting at the end of my bed writing notes. I don't have a clue about what on. After what seemed like several hours the doctors finally came and gave to order to get my breathing tube out. Oh gosh that was a relief I was so happy and scared about what it would feel like getting it out. When it did come out I vomited every where. I was covered in vomit. I had a feeding tube down my nose which they took out the next day.

Shortly after I had my breathing tube taken out the men arrive to help the nurse clean me up. The men are the strong arms of the ICU. They would come every two hours to roll me. My gosh the names I would call them inside my head. It was so painful. They would roll me on my side, and I would spend the next two hours rolling myself back onto my back, and much less painful position, and just when I finally go more comfortable, they would come back and roll me to the other side. I didn't like seeing them at all. At that time was on a steady follow of Morphine.

The next day, because I was awake the NICU were going to bring Marcella down to see me and try to get feeding going. So ICU moved me to a private room. I remember the room so well. On the left side of me was a wall of windows. I was so tired and weak. Every time I feel asleep I would have nightmares, and I would have to use all my might to jolt myself out of the nightmare and wake up. Only to drift back into sleep and have it happen all over again. Every time I closed my eyes it felt like someone was standing next to me, and not a friend. I would open my eyes and check, and there was no one there. One dream I keep having over and over again was, me lying in the bed, and the window next to my bed would suddenly turn into a roller door (like a garage door). Then I would get out of bed and walk out the door. I was worried that I would get lost and didn't want to walk out the door but I couldn't stop myself from doing it. Outside it was dark and night time, I couldn't see anything other than a few feet in front of me, there was just grass. Like being in the country, it was quiet and dark, no lights other than one near the door, like a sensor light. Then directly outside the room was a hill. At the top of the hill was an aboriginal man playing the didgeridoo. At the bottom of the hill was an orchid. Then from behind me my Dad (who has passed away) would appear and say he planted that Orchard. I got the feeling it was his favourite plant. It was at about this point in the dream/nightmare that I would wake up. I call it a nightmare because I always felt panicked and scared during and after it. Now looking back I wonder if it's a bit of memory from my time on life support. The idea of leaving this room, not being able to stop it, and being really worried I wouldn't be able to get back. I hadn't been told what happen at this point.

When they moved me to this room, they gave me a morphine pump to help with the pain. However I was so weak for all the blood, and operations I wasn't strong enough to press the button to give myself a dose. They had it set up so I could have a dose every 5 mins. But I could only have a dose when someone walked into my room. It took another day til I was strong enough to get that darn button down. After the first night in that room my poop pipe keep having explosions. It was very embarrassing and smelly. So the Nurse decided we should just take it out. So that was one less thing inside/attached to my body. However it took a little while for me to regain control over my bowels, and trust what was going to come out my butt. In the process of doing so I had a few accidents. The first nurse I had was so lovely about it all. So just got on with cleaning it up and keep reassure me that it was ok and not to worry. However the next nurse I had was not so happy about the situation and while cleaning up the mess was quiet ruff with my down stairs area and rubbed so hard that she made me very sore and bleed. It was another pain to add to the all ready painful experience. Not only was it painful, it was very degrading. It's already a really horrible position to be in. To go from an fairly able person ( on bed rest) to not being able to toilet yourself is an awful experience in it self, with out feeling even more degraded. Another unusual experience was having someone brush my teeth for me. That was weird and no something I would like to repeat at all. Also being bathed in a bed, having my hair washed in bed with shower cap type thing, and eventually having someone shower me.

It finally came time for me to start physiotherapy and start the process of sitting up, standing, and then trying to walk again. Oh gosh another world of pain. Not only the physical pain but also the technical pain of managing all my accessories, I had an iv in each arm, my catheter bag, two blood drainage bags, and a stoma bag collecting Lymphatic fluid from the open incision on my groin. My physio was very nice, and spoke in a gentle reassuring voice, which helped the process.

Marcella was brought down to me around every 4 hours during the day, so we could try and feed, but being early she didn't stay awake for long, and I didn't have much strength to hold her for long. We started expressing, the lactation consultant had expressed colostrum and gave it to her will I was still on life support, and expressed me a few other times, they did however have to through the milk away because of the drugs that they had me on.

After 5 days on life support, and 3 days in a private room, I was released from ICU and moved to maternity ward where I could be closer to my baby. I stayed there for another three weeks. The Staff in ICU were on the most part very lovely, caring and supportive. Out of all the Nurses and attendants I had during my time there, there was only that one that it more difficult. I thank them very much for all their time, and care in what was a very hard time.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Marcella's Birth Story, from Ben's Point of View.

From time to time things happen in our lifetimes that test our faith. This is the story of an experience that tested mine that resulted in another glorious blessing to our family.

My wife and I are 33 years old and we are already the proud parents of six children. We are proud to have a big family and we love the joy our children bring to us; and even though no child of ours has been an 'accident', this time when my wife told me she was pregnant it was a bit of a shock. It seems we were in for much more of a shock as time went by. After a woeful first trimester filled with incapacitating weakness, bleeding, nausea and vomiting, we were all glad for the promise of a reprieve in the second trimester. The third trimester however, brought some more significant problems for us. By 20 weeks she had already had about 10 bleeds which would mean a trip to the hospital each time to check that our baby was still alive. At the 20 week scan she was diagnosed with placenta previa, at which point the doctors where hoping it would move during the remainder of the pregnancy. Around the 32 week mark she had another scan at which the doctors found that Christina had complete placenta previa. A condition that means that the placenta was lying unusually low in your uterus and covering Christina's cervix. Doctors informed Christina that a caesarean section would definitely be needed, she could not deliver naturally. After this diagnosis, the doctors at the hospital kept a careful eye on Christina, checking week by week to see if there was any change in her status. Christina, at about this time decided to set up a facebook group to let people know what was going on in her pregnancy (family and church friends often would ask her how she was going, and found this the best way to tell those close to us what was going on). This was her third post after creating the group:

'Welcome to the group! I'm currently 32 +5 weeks pregnancy with another blessing. From my last ultra sound (a week ago) I have grade 4 placenta previa, with the placenta over my old c-section scars, which means there is a possibility of having placenta accreta. Our baby has also been diagnosed with a clubbed left foot, we won't know the degree of until birth. I'm booked in for a c-section on 25 of June, which will make me 37 weeks. As long as I don't have bleeding before that. Other wise delivery could be any day'.

As it turned out, the days ticked slowly over and it seemed less and less likely that Christina would be able to deliver naturally, and the placenta accreta issue, I found out, occurs when the placenta attaches too deep in the uterine wall but it does not penetrate the uterine muscle. Each doctor Christina consulted closer to the time appeared more and more concerned. It was firmly decided by the doctors that Christina would definitely need another ceasarean. The facebook group turned into a bit of a forum to ask people start praying, and to express her annoyance at having to jab herself (she suffered with prenatal diabetes too). 18 days before the C-section date she wrote this:

'As if there enough differences in this pregnancy baby is lying in half breech, half transverse position. Nothing can be simple and straight forward in this pregnancy'.

Having a baby in full breach position would prove much easier for the doctors to resolve than the position it had gotten itself into. Despite all of this happening, it was strangely humorous clearly seeing the baby's head sticking out of Christina's tummy, with the rest of her body curled up seeming to want to conserve space. The doctors also diagnosed our baby with Club foot, which worried christina a little, and the spectre of a forced hysterectomy loomed as well, as we both wanted the option of having more children as much as the ability to stop.

As the pregnancy progressed, Christina spent more and more time in bed, watching movies and crocheting. Facebook became one of the only links to the outside world, since she was unable to drive to places (I don't have my licence due to health problems). When online, Christina said little leading up to the birth except '15 days to go' or '8 days to go'. She struggled with lots of anxiety, feeling nervous about the operation. She did have a conversation or two with me about her wishes should she not make it through the operation, which concerned a bit, but I pushed the thoughts to the back of my mind.

With one week to go, on a Tuesday, I was sitting at TAFE during class time when I saw a sudden facebook message from Christina: It went like this

Ben Mathewson
Christina Mathewson
Home now
Ben Mathewson
Do you need me home now?
Christina Mathewson
Now Bleeding
Ben Mathewson
Ben Mathewson
Im nearly there
Have you called anyone?

I packed my bags very quickly and ran home. On the way I quickly wrote Im nearly there
Have you called anyone? No reply. While running home I heard the ominous sign of the Ambulance siren. When I had got there the ambulance staff were loading her up with a towel around her, about to drive to the hospital. Christina had also rung her best friend who was on her way over to look after our other children. The ambulance drove off after I got some instructions from Christina, and I caught a lift to the hospital with my kind next door neighbour after Christina's friend arrived. My head was a blur. I didn't know what was going to happen next. It was comforting talking about something else in the car.

When I got to the hospital I ran out and talked to the ambulance people, asking them for her. They told me to go upstairs to find out where she was. Doctors directed me to theatre and told me I could only go in quickly to say a few words to Christina before she went in. Reassured to see her, but heart still racing, I told her to 'stay calm', and 'it will all be okay', without really having the same confidence. After this, time seemed to drag. I was shown to a bed in a ward and continually asked by worried looking nurses if I wanted a cup of tea. After a couple of hours a nurse came to see me and tell me the baby is fine, and beautiful, and can be found in the nursery. Marcella Daphne Providence was born into the world 7 pounds, without sign of club foot, and perfect in every way, entirely unaware as babies are of the chaos around her. When I asked the nurse about Christina's wellbeing they said 'we don't know yet'. After about 5 hours of waiting I posted this under her name.

'please keep praying for christina. She is in hospital now. More news to come soon. (Ben)'

After I had nursed the baby for a little while and spend 7 hours in the hospital the nurses told me there was 'nothing I could do at this point' and that I may as well go home'. I took their advice and went home. Running on junk food and adrenaline all day I pondered what to tell the children. When I got home, christina's best friend had the house cleaned up and the children ready for bed. My oldest Sophie (9) was the one who was most worried. I told her that 'mummy was still sick, but the doctors were looking after her'. After trying to keep a smile on my face as if everything was normal, I was able to get 5 out of my six children to bed. My youngest (2) wrestled with me in the bed and screamed uncontrollably until 11 o'clock. After he'd finally quietened down I fell fast asleep.

I awoke two hour later to the sound of a male voice at the end of my bed, and someone firmly grabbing my foot to get my attention.
'Sir, SIR, it's officer.... someone here. I need you to wake up sir!'
After my eyes adjusted and I had finished shouting in fear, I discovered a policeman at the end of my bed.
'What!? What?! Who are you?'
'I'm officer 'such-and-such' (I found out later it was about 1 o clock and I STILL don't remember his name) and It's very important that you ring the hospital'
After stumbling, bleary eyed to the phone, and after the officer had repeated the number several times until my brain could comprehend it, I rang the hospital.

'I think that you need to come down here. We are doing all that we can, but your wife has lost a lot of blood and she might not survive'
There was no way I could get a babysitter at 1:00 in the morning.
'I'll come as soon as I can'. I said.

Not being able to go back to sleep I rang our friend at 6 in the morning and said that Christina was in trouble and I needed a babysitter as soon as I could. Once she had organised her own children she was over at our house by 7:00 as my second oldest (age 8) had just woken up. I made a decision, because my children needed to know the truth, and I didn't want them to resent me if Christina had died.
'Your mummy might die' I said to her, 'but the doctors are looking after her'. Perhaps because she had woken up, or because she was the calm, quiet child it didn't seem to register with her. I was trying to hold it together and not cry, so I changed the subject to the TV show she was watching.

When I got to the hospital the doctors told me that Christina was in a critical but stable condition, and they had stopped the bleeding, but she was 'not out of the woods yet' and would still be in theatre until 9. Distraught, I rang the hospital chaplain, and He said he would pray over christina. He came, and once Christina was back in intensive care he put oil on her head and prayed that she would live. Finally being face to face with Christina did not set my heart at ease. She was looking grey and had tubes protruding from everywhere, including a machine to help her breathe. I knew then what 'critical but stable' meant. I was asked to ring her mother which I did.
Once that chaplain had gone, another came to replace his shift. I spent hours talking to this kindly lady, just offloading and trying to express my anxiety and grief at what had happened.

After this, I waited at the hospital in my little room trying to rest, and watching TV while staff continued to fuss around me. I was asked at least 10 times a day whether I wanted a cup of tea. The staff cared for me and the neonatal nursery told me I needed to take pictures of all of the baby's 'first' things first baths, first cuddles etc, so that Christina could feel part of her story 'if she survives' I thought, but tried to scrub that thought away from my head. I was overwhelmed. And as much as I loved this little baby, I wanted her mum to be fine too. By that evening, and after many tears in private places I had an assurance from doctors that they had things under control. I wrote this post to our facebook friends

Hello, it's ben here again. It has been a very difficult day today, but I want to say thank you for everyone who prayed. I got to the hospital at 6 a.m. and the doctors gave a less than 30% of her surviving. She was in a critical condition. Right now, it looks like they have isolated her bleeding problem and they are feeling much more confident she will pull through. With your prayers and friendship, she has and will pull the rest of the way through, and my very disturbed spirit feels much more at peace now. There is still a small chance she will bleed again so the doctors are still watching her closely, but it is fair to say the battle is almost over. Thanks again. Christina and I are thankful to have such valuable friends. (Ben).

In the meantime, many things had happened in our family. My friends, and especially Christina's best friend, organised trips to the dentist for my oldest, meals to be delivered when I was at home (I am a pretty poor cook, but this ordeal has shown me how to cook at least. Our friends in homeschooling group and church groups organised babysitting, cleaning, prayer and the support of 'just someone to talk to'.

During that evening the doctors informed me that the following day they would be taking the packing off christina's stomach. The doctors informed me that they 'may have' isolated the bleeding and that if there is no infection and no continual bleeding, then she would be on the slow road to recovery. At 12 that day- 3 days after delivery date; the surgeon came to see me with a smile on his face, and said that Christina's progress was good, and that there was no infections. After another three days the doctors removed the tubes and Christina was able to slur out 'I love you' to two of the children I had brought to visit her. After another 2 days doctors moved her out of intensive care and onto the maternity ward! I found out through talking to emergency staff that Christina needed her entire body weight of blood replacing four times over, and had effectively drained the whole state's supply of O Negative blood! On top of all this I found out that she had to undergo a forced hysterectomy and has some damage to the bladder where the placenta had grown through the Uterus.In total she had 5 days on life support.

Time passed and after about 4 weeks in hospital Doctors gave her the all clear to come home, which she was overjoyed about, despite the fact that she was still toting a bladder bag. The day after, however, she had to be rushed to the hospital with another bleed. The anxiety I felt rose up strongly again within me. She stayed overnight and the following day the doctors gave the verdict that it was 'just the body trying to get rid of waste materials'. 'No more panic!!' I thought! She came home the following day and little of consequence happened after that. Christina, as it turned out, would go through a roller coaster of emotions and various sicknesses as her body adjusted to the pain of the trauma and all of the blood transfusions. She slept a lot and she still sleeps a lot as we try to forge a way through, finding a way to get back to 'normal life' whatever that is; and we are looking forward to a pain free life, some time in the future.

From time to time things happen in our lifetimes that test our faith. I hope for our families' sake that testing is over for a while.

Ben Mathewson.

If you want to read more from Ben, the check out his blog Imagination Infinity 

"At least your alive."

"At least you are alive".

These are the well meaning words I hear often. I know that they are coming from a loving place, from people that want to be thanere but aren't really sure what to say. But sometimes those words make me think that the way I'm feeling about some things are invalid because I couldn't have easily not been here.

You know sometimes it's just nice to have someone understand your feelings. Like "I'm really glad your here, but yes I can totally understand that what your going through really suck!".

Yes I'm glad I'm still here, and most of the time I cope with the changes to my life, my body and my family pretty well. However there are times when I still struggle. Like when I'm in bed, I would just like to roll over without pain. Yes I'm in much less pain than I was in, but it's still pain none the less. Like when I sort through my things and find my pregnancy test with Marcella, and know that is the last ever pregnancy test I will take, that is the last time I will ever feel that surge of excitement and joy that we will be expecting another blessing in our family. I know some people around me are very glad that I can't have more children, but for me that is devastating. Most of the time I try and look at to the future and the next stage of my and our lives as a family, however in quiet times it still hurts, and REALLY SUCKS!

But hey at least I'm alive.