NPR and Pro Publica have been doing a study on rising maternal mortality in the United States. They have found “many hospitals are woefully unprepared for a maternal emergency.” Tell me about it. Here is our story:
September 18, 2014, approximately 10:30pm
I had been laboring since around 8:00am. I finally felt that the pain had become too much, and we went to the hospital. I was 37 weeks, 3 days. As a side note, I had the most uneventful pregnancy ever: no morning sickness, swelling or other issues. I exercised almost everyday and was the picture of health. The only symptom was a 40 pound weight gain!
At the hospital, they told me it would be at least until the end of the weekend before I delivered (another 3-4 days). I was sent home with some Ambien, which kind of makes me laugh angrily. Five hours later my water broke, and I was back.
September 19, 2014, 8:30pm
After laboring naturally more than 24 hours and pushing close to six (WTF), we decided to go with the C-section. At this point there was no choice; her head wasn’t going to fit. But why did I have to push six hours before we came to this conclusion!?!?!
We had asked repeatedly why this was taking so long but the conga line of different medical professionals kept telling us we were so close. I was admitted at 6:30am, and over the next twelve hours we had three attendings, a fellow, two residents and a midwife. Those are the ones I remember. No continuity of care. We retold our tale at least six different times. Somebody other than us should have said “this is going on too long.” The only reason we were in the C-section line is because my husband paged the fellow. My stats were stable, so they forgot about us. This could have gone on for hours longer, and we could have had issues.
On top of it, we were informed we would have to wait another two or three hours because there was only one fellow in the hospital that night who could perform a C-section, and there were two people ahead of us. What if something had changed and the operation had to happen sooner? We were lucky that baby girl and I were stable. Our beautiful girl was finally delivered at 12:01am September 20th, with a sizeable bruise on her forehead from six hours of pushing.
September 22, 2014, 8:00pm
We were finally discharged. It had been a hell of a day. Almost three days postpartum, I weighed MORE than I did the night of September 19th. I gave birth to an eight-pound, 1.5 ounce child, and I weight ten pounds MORE than when I had entered the hospital due to fluid retention. I had no swelling at all during my pregnancy, and now my legs were like tree trunks. I had disgusting rashes on my legs and abdomen. My husband, who is a doctor, had fought all damn day to get a dermatology consult. Nobody cared. It was like, as long as the baby and I were alive, it was all good. They could send in multiple lactation specialists to “bully” me about breastfeeding, but nobody cared about the swelling, which could have been a sign of a serious problem. Because I’m going to be producing a lot of milk when I have a major complication or am dead.
September 24, 2014, evening
After being home a couple of days, we were becoming concerned that my weight hadn’t gone down at all. My husband was a little worried about my heart.
I had a six week post-op appointment set up for mid-October but nothing else. My husband had to use the “I’m a doctor” card to get me seen in a timely manner. If I didn’t have that connection, who knows how long it would have taken for me to get an appointment. The doctor was alarmed by the swelling. Fortunately, it was nothing that a little Lasix couldn’t take care of, but it was still good to know. And I felt better and had more energy! Isn’t that the goal!?!?
I went to my six week postpartum check-up. When I relayed my concerns regarding my delivery experience, I was met with the same “well, you and the baby are alive” attitude I had experience in the maternity ward. Yes, I was 100% grateful that my child and I were alive and well, but they put us in a position where something could have gone wrong! Our excellent health got us through the ordeal, but you can’t bank on that!
I also completed a patient survey and explained my frustrations. I never heard a word.
I know and have had wonderful experiences with multiple OB-GYNs in my thirty-three years. My problem was with the poor hospital staffing and the dismissal of my post-delivery issues. During the evening hours of the delivery, there was a newer first-year resident, who gave us some terribly wrong information, and a fellow, who was often busy with other patients. I acknowledge we were at a teaching hospital but young residents need to be supervised; that is how they learn. Childbirth can be risky business. Why operate with a skeleton crew?
Medical professionals need to listen to their patients. Not all postpartum women are complaining just because they’re “hormonal.”
While my care was sub-par, I have to wonder if it is worse for “average Jane,” someone who doesn’t have a doctor spouse providing push-back. Doctors are human and sometimes make mistakes, but there was a general lack of care from start to finish. I am grateful that we are both happy and healthy! Unfortunately, I think my experience is more the rule than the exception, and that’s just not good enough!
While our experience wasn’t what it should have been, it did make me stronger. Nobody is going to fight for you but you!
And now you know the real reason I can never root for a certain ACC school in anything!