BE A HERO! - Mountain Buzz

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Old 03-31-2009   #1
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 169

Some of you may already know the full story, but most of you do not. This is a little long winded, but I assure you this is the “short” version.

My wife went into the hospital on 2/8/09, then a little over 8-1/2 months pregnant. She was feeling weird, as if she had bad gas pains, so she wanted to get looked at just to be safe. We went into Boulder Community Foothills Hospital at about 8:00am, and were sure they would send us home telling us everything was fine. They took her blood, hooked her up to monitors, then a large team of doctors rushed in trying to re-establish our unborn son’s heartbeat on the monitor. Commotion followed, it was really all a blur to me. My wife told me to call her mother and have her come down, a doctor handed me sterile gowns and told me they needed to perform an emergency C-section. Something to do with my wife’s low platelets and my son’s abnormal heart rhythm…but they had to wait for blood products to arrive from the main Boulder Community hospital or my wife wouldn’t be able to clot during the surgery.

When the units of blood and platelets arrived they rushed her off to surgery. I followed, but was then kicked out of the OR before they put in the breathing tube. I didn’t understand why this was happening. My wife was healthy and wanted nothing more than to have a natural child birth with the midwives, and have no doctors in sight. After what seemed like an eternity, I saw my son lifted and carried away. He looked limp and lifeless, and I didn’t hear any crying. I was terrified. A little later a nurse came out and brought me to my son, who now appeared healthy, and shot a steady stream of pee straight into the air as I approached. The nurse told me he looked great, but they would need to run some blood tests to make sure. He was fine.

Surgery went well, my wife was in the post-op recovery room soon after, and was able to see our son for the first time. Well, she was able to hold him and feel him…she couldn’t see well, nothing was in focus. We thought it was a lingering effect of the anesthesia. They didn’t let her hold him long, and wheeled her down to the ICU. The doctors then told me her platelet count was at 6,000 before the transfusions. Her platelet count would normally be over 200,000. They suspected HELLP Syndrome. The cure for HELLP is delivery of the baby, so the plan was to monitor her blood and give her platelet and blood transfusions as needed until her body took over and she recovered.

On the fourth day she took a turn for the worse. Her kidneys started to fail, her lungs filled with so much liquid she was placed on 100% oxygen. Her liver was failing, her eyesight was still horrible, and her heart rate was through the roof along with her blood pressure. I didn’t keep count, but I remember a doctor saying she had received the equivalent amount of blood products of someone who had nine major organ transplants. If I had to guess, I would say well over 100 units of blood and platelets had been transfused. They weren’t sure what was going on. They took her to have a CT scan, didn’t see anything that would cause this.

The next day, she was even worse. Her hematologist suspected it was not HELLP Syndrome, and was something else I had never heard of, TTP. She spoke with the leading TTP specialist, located in Oklahoma, who agreed that this sounded like TTP. My wife’s mother, a RN, did not agree, nor did the kidney doctor, who thought she was just having a bad reaction to all the blood products. The hematologist wanted to start plasmapheresis, which would mean she would have to be transferred to the main Boulder Community hospital, which would mean she couldn’t see our son (at this point she was the only ICU patient, so it was safe to have our son in the ICU to visit). After much debate, we finally agreed to go forward with the plasmapheresis that night. All of her organs were starting to shut down.

They transferred her that night, on 2/12, and immediately placed an IV catheter and started the plasma exchange. The results were almost immediate. The next day she was feeling better, and didn’t need as many blood or platelet transfusions. She continued to have plasmapheresis treatments every day, along with a few treatments of dialysis to help out her kidneys. She spent 5 additional days in the ICU, with me acting as a single father to a new born child. I think I had slept all of 5 hours over those 10 days. I had family watch my son while I would somehow find my way to the hospital in my zombified state to visit my wife. She was finally healthy enough to walk to a wheelchair, and was wheeled out into the ICU to see her son again after not seeing him for 5 days. I can’t even begin to convey the emotions that went through me on that day. It was as if I could finally breathe again. The next day she was transferred out of the ICU and into a regular hospital room, where she spent another 14 days and continued the plasmapheresis and occasional dialysis, before being released on the 24th day of her hospitalization.

My wife has been home for almost a month now, and things are slowly getting back to normal. The official diagnosis is a rare blood disorder called TTP, the cause of which no one knows. There is a 33.3% chance it can return, but that means there’s a 66.3% chance it won’t. Her vision is still screwed up, an MRI revealed 10 to 15 “mini strokes”, some of which were in her visual cortex, which is believed to cause the impairment. The neurologist thinks her brain will be able to repair itself with some therapy, and her vision will eventually be back to normal. She has labs drawn every week to make sure her blood is maintaining normalcy, and so far so good.

If it hadn’t been for all the people who donate blood, my wife (and probably my son) would not be here today. If it hadn’t been for all the people who donate plasma, my wife would still be sick, or worse. Prior to plasmapheresis TTP had a 90% mortality rate.

For those of you who do donate, I will never be able to thank you enough. You save lives every day, yet you probably don’t see it. For those of you who never have, please be a hero and donate. I assure you, it can make all the difference in the world for so many people. Thanks for taking the time to read this.


River Jayden:

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Old 03-31-2009   #2
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Bozeman, Montana
Paddling Since: 1999
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my heart goes to you brother. congratulations on the boy and best wishes to your wife.
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Old 03-31-2009   #3
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 178
Hey Clinton,

As a father, that is a hard story to read, but it is good to hear that everything is turning around. I have never donated blood before, but I will ASAP.

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Old 03-31-2009   #4
Park City, Utah
Paddling Since: 1985
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 701

Thank god you went in. We contemplated a mid wife, but my background made me want a prenatal intensive care unit where we went. Sounds like your doctors made a great call on a very rare disorder. Glad it was Boulder. Thanks for sharing and hope your wife comes through this well. In alot of hospitals this would not have turned out this well!
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Old 03-31-2009   #5
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 334
Scary story. I am glad it had a happy ending. I have been in a similiar situation with my fiance. She was not pregnant, but came down with a neurological disorder that nobody has ever seen. Three months of hospital stays, and 700K of medical bills later she is OK. We really didn't know what was going to happen.

Are you guys OK with medical bills or did you get shafted by insurance?
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Old 03-31-2009   #6
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Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 290
That's one good looking baby! Scary story and glad everything was figured out.

As a father of twins that were pre-mature and now very healthy and active, I wish yours the same health and happiness.

My wife has a series of sypmtoms that doctors have not been able to figure out, causing her to go in and out of the hospital. But she's strong and has a great outlook. I need to start giving blood again with this story and thinking of all of those whose blood has benefited my wife.

Thanks for gettin' the word out and sharing.
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Old 03-31-2009   #7
Salt Lake City/Steamboat Springs, Utah
Paddling Since: 2003
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 12
look for the Alyx machine

this last december or november I went in to give blood for the first time. I'm 21 and after the trip to chile a few years ago with all the vaccines I finally stepped up. I had a good friend put an arrow through his leg hunting and I was with him. They had to give him 8 units of blood to keep him alive, I figured somebody else's friend might do the same and I was glad to have him around so why not. The nurse told me that since I was a larger male (im 180) and a blood type they had a shortage of, they wanted me to try the ALYX machine. It sucks out two units of blood (twice than normally giving blood) and then pumps back in the blood - plasma with saline. The experience was a little strange, I didn't feel great for a week at least afterwords, but they were able to get two units from me. I would say if you are at least 180, try looking for blood drives with this, you can give just a little bit more, and you even get a free t-shirt.

Anyway man, glad to hear the family is doing better, crazy story, but congrats.
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Old 03-31-2009   #8
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Boulder, Jackson Kayak, Colorado
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Clinton... what a tremendous story. So glad to hear that things are on the right track.
"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body. But rather...To skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming... WOW !!!! What a ride!!!!!!"
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Old 03-31-2009   #9
Littleton, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1998
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 263
Hey Clinton,

So happy for you that you son is healthy and you wife is on the mend--that is one scary story, brother...but congratulations on that beautiful little paddler!! shoot me a pm if I can do anything or help out, be happy to help.

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Old 03-31-2009   #10
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 169
Thanks everyone for all the good thoughts. Canada, we were very impressed with the level of care she received. Her team of 10 different specialists were all top notch, and I agree with you completely. On a side note, the Boulder Nurse Midwives actually work out of Foothills hospital, so we would have had that safety net regardless. The Cancer Center next door has some pretty spectacular hematologists as well. They all played their role in saving her life, and I couldn't be more grateful.

Clayton, I remember you mentioning that strange illness your fiance suffered a while back. I'm glad they've finally figured that thing out, and hope everything stays positive for you guys. We are still waiting to find out if my insurance company will stiff us. My max out of pocket for the family is ~$10k with no max on benefits. That being said, we received a "pre-bill" from the hospital that showed us owing them over $71k. I haven't received the EOB from my insurance company on those charges yet, nor the actual bill from the hospital relating to those charges, so I'm not sure if my insurance denied a bunch of the big claims, or if those just haven't been processed yet for some reason. I guess I'll cross that "fight the insurance giant" bridge when I get to it.

Thanks again for taking the time to read all the way through the story, and for all the good wishes.

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