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Farkhanda

Age at interview: 35
Age at diagnosis: 34
Brief Outline: Farkhanda was pregnant with her 4th son. She experienced bleeding throughout the pregnancy, and at 22 weeks was hospitalised with placenta accreta, later diagnosed as placenta percreta.
Background: Farkhanda is a British Pakistani lawyer, married with 4 sons.

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Farkhanda is in her mid-30s. She had three sons and unexpectedly got pregnant with a 4th. Originally there were twins, but one of them miscarried. The miscarriage tore at the placenta, so from early on, Farkhanda bled regularly. At first these bleeds were frightening, she thought she was miscarrying again. But as she got to know her body, and the regularity of the bleeds, she knew what to expect. There were concerns about the pregnancy from early on. Scans showed that their son had problems (possible heart problems and his tummy was outside his body), and they were asked to consider terminating the pregnancy. But she and her husband decided that they wanted to have the baby, however he was. 
 
As her pregnancy continued, his problems were gradually ruled out, so finally all he had to deal with was an exomphalos (his tummy was outside his body). However Farkhanda herself had a very high-risk pregnancy. Her placenta accreta was finally re-diagnosed as placenta percreta. She was hospitalised from 22 weeks, bleeding regularly. A detailed care plan was worked out with a huge team of specialists, including gyneocology, trauma and urology. Consultants came to explain to her the very high risk she was at of bleeding to death once her major haemorrhage started. At 29 weeks, she started her major bleed and her team were called (in the middle of the night), some had to helicopter in to get there fast enough. She had surgery for many hours before waking up in intensive care (ICU). She lost 18 litres of blood. The first emergency required two operations, and when she started bleeding again three days later they took her in to surgery again. She spent 12 days on the high dependency unit (HDU) before being discharged to a post-natal ward. The pain levels she was experiencing were extremely high, and she was on morphine for a long while. However, when she was sufficiently recovered from the emergency surgery she was discharged home. She had some retained placenta in her bladder which caused her a lot of pain, but doctors wanted to wait until she had recovered some of her strength before operating again to remove those bits. Her son was in neo natal intensive care (NICU) for 5 weeks before being discharged. His exomphalos healed itself.
 
Farkhanda was interviewed a year after the birth of her son. He was doing well, and she had finally joined the gym and gone back to work. She felt that the emergency and trauma did a lot to strengthen her family, and bring her and her husband together. But it was a big strain on them all.
 
 

Visiting her son was the highlight of Farkhanda's days. She really appreciated the help staff...

Visiting her son was the highlight of Farkhanda's days. She really appreciated the help staff...

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You know, sometimes I would see the baby every day. And for me it was like the highlight of my day. I’m going to get enough courage. I’m going to take my painkillers now. “Why do you want your painkillers now, Farkhanda?” “Because they’re going to kick in in ten minutes. I can go and see my baby. It’s going to take ten minutes. That will be ten minutes with the baby. By the time I come back I’ll need my morphine again.” And I would like plan it out, so well so I can go and see my baby, pain free, come back, don’t worry about it. When I come back you can meet me in the corridors and I’ll be like literally waiting in the room with morphine in the, in the corridors for me, because the baby unit was far away then. 
 
Now it’s next door, but it was quite a trek. And if, God forbid, if the porters would be late with the wheelchair, it would trigger off a whole load of emotions. If he’s late my morphine’s going to run out, they’re not going to give me morphine again until three hours. That means I’m going to have to wait another three hours and I would speak to, you know, the nurse, and I’d say, “Please ring him again. Tell him that if he’s not here in ten minutes, my pain relief is going to finish and I won’t be able to sit in the chair.” So little things like that would mean the world to me. But when you’ve got a whole ward to run, why am I going to matter? Why are you going to take time out from your busy schedule with other people who are just as in need as I am, to keeping ringing the bloody porter. But I said, “I feel really, really bad, but would you …” She said, “Of course I will. Why do you feel bad?” And she goes, “Get down here now. Morphine’s got ten minutes.” 
 
So that, little things like that, you wouldn’t ever have to consider being a priority but getting the porter to this lady on time can make a difference between whether she sees her baby now, or in the evening. But it made a difference to me. Because I thought my baby needed to be near me for me to try to produce milk. And I wasn’t producing milk.

 

 

Farkhanda's baby was a week old, and she was still in the high dependency. She was supported by...

Farkhanda's baby was a week old, and she was still in the high dependency. She was supported by...

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So I had ticked off all my boxes now and I was thinking I need to take the baby off of me because I’ve started to feel unwell, and immediately my health deteriorated, inside SCUBU I just became unwell. 
 
I remember the pain just went, shot up really high, and I remember the porter ringing the ward, high dependency and he said, “I’m bringing her up. I’m going to be a few minutes. I’m coming as fast as I can. You need her morphine ready as I get there.” And I was thinking oh I can’t wait to get to my bed.
 
My midwife was so good, they were waiting for me outside labour room with my morphine shots and as soon as I got there, I could see them from the lift, they came running to the lift, game me the morphine shots because they were told the pain levels to expect, and I was thinking how caring is that? You didn’t have to come all the way out of your ward to the lift to give me pain relief. But that’s the kind of people they were. They were so… they went beyond their duty to care for somebody. Even though some of them clearly weren’t trained for what I went through. They still you know.

 

 

Farkhanda was still in intensive care on lots of drips and painkillers, but was determined to see...

Farkhanda was still in intensive care on lots of drips and painkillers, but was determined to see...

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So I went in to see my baby and saw the baby for the first time. We had a nice one to one skin contact and it was the first time that my baby was picked up, but they said that they deliberately did that, they wanted me to be the first one, my family didn’t pick him up and he was absolutely gorgeous and I remember thinking, all this time it was about him, but really it was about, we didn’t know it was going to be about me, so I said, “When’s my baby’s operation.”
 
And they’re going, your baby’s exomphalos fixed itself. We tied it up into a tube ready for an operation and in a few hours it fell into its belly into the right position. We said, “Then may be for the heart defect. We were told that the baby was born with an open valve.” I said, “When’s my baby being taken to Great Ormond Street for the hospital.” They go, “It’s not needed, the valve’s opened itself. 
 
So this baby that needed major operations was fine.  And you know, as soon as she said that to me, they told me, “The longest you can be downstairs to see the baby was about fifteen minutes, and then you’re going to need your medicine, because the pain relief is….” Because I needed my medicine every ten minutes, my pump. But I couldn’t take the pump with me because I had an epidural. And I had the gas, I couldn’t carry to much with the wheelchair.
 
And I’m thinking, I don’t feel very well, can you take the baby, I need to go back upstairs. 
 
And it was so nice, because they met me for the first time, yet they knew me really well. So I mean I walked into the baby care unit. The SCUBU and I remember them saying, “This is Baby [surname]’s Mum.” And they got up to handshake me. And they said, “Hi Farkhanda.” And I said, “How do you know my name?” And they said, “We all know you. We’ve all heard your story. You’re a fighter and we’ve all heard about you, and I remember going into the baby care unit, and all the specialist staff, the nurses, all coming up just to see who I was.
 
And I remember the lady said to me, “I looked after your baby when he was born.” And I said, “Could you come close to me.” And she said, “Yes.” And I gave her a kiss, and I said, “That’s thank you for being a Mum to my baby, because I said to my husband my baby’s born. He might not have a Mum and in my mind I thought you would be his Mum for his first few hours. And she started crying [laughs].
 
 

Farkhanda found the transfer from high dependency very difficult but soon she was able to do...

Farkhanda found the transfer from high dependency very difficult but soon she was able to do...

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I went to the ward and that was such a nightmare. I went down to the ward and I had to share a ward with you know, other mothers, but these other mothers had their babies with them. They didn’t have you know, they didn’t need constant pain relief, they could walk. They didn’t have a bladder problem. So the bladder problem hadn’t been resolved. They didn’t need, when I needed to go to the toilet, I need to go there and then. It was a part of the surgery they said. And I said, “I shouldn’t be here.” 
 
And I’m having these feelings but I’m not saying them and then my pain kicks in. The pain is so severe that they called the doctor, the doctor has a look, and she’s saying, “Oh it’s not this, and that.” I said, “Do you know what, I’ve come from the high dependency unit, and before high dependency I was in ICU. 
 
I need you to get my consultant. So she’s had a look through my notes. Immediately she’s changed her perception of me and she’s called my consultant. Within an hour my consultant’s downstairs and the pain is unbearable. It was the move you see, I tired myself out coming down. They thought that something was wrong inside. I couldn’t let them touch me. So they started to put things into place. We might need another operation and perhaps its ripped on the inside, perhaps there’s an infection. Do this, do this, do that. 
 
So they were talking in their own medical terms and I’m thinking please no. My Mum’s crying. Because she can’t see me in the pain. “She needs another blood transfusion.” And they arranged the blood transfusion. So all these things are kicking off and I’m thinking you’ve brought me down too soon, Miss [consultant], you let me go too soon, you’ve done it too soon. She said, “No it’s not too soon if I didn’t bring you down, you need this, you need to move on. We can’t, if we kept you there you would get used to that care, you need to move on, you need to be stronger, the first day’s going to hard and I said, “Move me to my own room then. I need, by the time I get to the toilet and somebody else is in the toilet I’m going to wet myself and I’m going to get embarrassed. I’m going to be straight with you, if I had my own room, at least I won’t get embarrassed.” And she’ll look at you and she’ll say, “I’ll try to arrange a room.” But she had no intentions of arranging a room for me.” She goes, “I’ll try to arrange a room for you.” And I said, “I want you to tell everybody on this ward that I’m priority [laughs]. Because of what I’ve gone through.” And then I’d say that and I’d hear myself and I was thinking, what did you say. I said, “Miss [consultant] ignore that. I’m sorry I don’t know why I just said that.” She goes, “I know why you said that, you’ve been through a hell of a lot and you do need to go to the toilet when you need to go, but don’t worry they’ll understand [laughs].
 
So by then all these mothers have heard there’s a dragon in the room [laughs] But as it happened I, you know, the extra they just upped the painkillers back to what they were in high dependency and I recovered after a few days. One night and day I came into a routine where I knew that I could get up, I could go the toilet, and slowly, slowly, she was right. I made myself do things, and I was, my body started to repair and I was able to sit in a wheelchair, go and see my baby. 
 
 

Farkhanda was in intensive care and it was 7 days before she could go and visit her son in...

Farkhanda was in intensive care and it was 7 days before she could go and visit her son in...

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So I went in to see my baby and saw the baby for the first time. We had a nice one to one skin contact and it was the first time that my baby was picked up, but they said that they deliberately did that, they wanted me to be the first one, my family didn’t pick him up and he was absolutely gorgeous and I remember thinking, all this time it was about him, but really it was about, we didn’t know it was going to be about me, so I said, “When’s my baby’s operation.”
 
And they’re going, your baby’s exomphalos fixed itself. We tied it up into a tube ready for an operation and in a few hours it fell into its belly into the right position. We said, “Then may be for the heart defect. We were told that the baby was born with an open valve.” I said, “When’s my baby being taken to Great Ormond Street for the hospital.” They go, “It’s not needed, the valve’s opened itself. 
 
So this baby that needed major operations was fine. And you know, as soon as she said that to me, they told me, “The longest you can be downstairs to see the baby was about fifteen minutes, and then you’re going to need your medicine, because the pain relief is…” Because I needed my medicine every ten minutes, my pump. But I couldn’t take the pump with me because I had an epidural. And I had the gas, I couldn’t carry to much with the wheelchair.
 
And I’m thinking, I don’t feel very well, can you take the baby, I need to go back upstairs. 
 
And it was so nice, because they met me for the first time, yet they knew me really well. So I I mean I walked into the baby care unit. The SCBU and I remember them saying, “This is Baby [Name]’s Mum.” And they got up to handshake me. And they said, “Hi Farkhanda.” And I said, “How do you know my name?” And they said, “We all know you. We’ve all heard your story. You’re a fighter and we’ve all heard about you, and I remember going into the baby care unit, and all the specialist staff, the nurses, all coming up just to see who I was.
 
And I remember the lady said to me, “I looked after your baby when he was born.” And I said, “Could you come close to me.” And she said, “Yes.” And I gave her a kiss, and I said, “That’s thank you for being a Mum to my baby, because I said to my husband my baby’s born. He might not have a Mum and in my mind I thought you would be his Mum for his first few hours. And she started crying [laughs].
 
 

Farkandha who was very ill with placenta percreta (a condition in which the placenta invades the...

Farkandha who was very ill with placenta percreta (a condition in which the placenta invades the...

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And mentally the only impact that it’s had is that it’s made us stronger Our belief is stronger, we value our relationships more, not just me, others round me. My sisters they are forever saying, “We learnt the hard way. We learnt the hard way what it really means.” And my sisters, the way they rallied around. One of my sisters, the one I call PA, she spent most of her time in the hospital, before and after surgery. She left a three month old baby at home. She was breastfeeding her baby. And for me, for a Mother leave a three month old nursing baby at home to care for me. I mean how else can you show your love? There’s nothing more powerful than that. And the baby was then cared for by my sister. It may have been just three weeks, but within that three weeks, this baby had to stop breastfeeding, yes, you know, so it’s the powerful things like that, really you know, and you know, my husband can’t, he can’t stop saying enough times, he will just say, “If you died, I would have taken the boys and I would have moved away so far, where I’d never remember you because I wouldn’t be able to live with that pain.” I was thinking, oh God you work in mysterious ways. Thank goodness he didn’t do that, because my Mum would miss my boys [laughs]. And I wouldn’t have you know, no say in that, that was probably beyond [laughs].

 

Farkhanda's oldest son was not doing well at school while she was in hospital, but as soon as she...

Farkhanda's oldest son was not doing well at school while she was in hospital, but as soon as she...

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And what about the boys, how do you think the whole thing affected them?
 
I think they got over it as soon as I come, as soon as I walked through the door, it was like okay she’s back now. I think they completely forgot about it.
 
Great. 
 
Yes, completely forgot about it, yes. I contacted the school once I came home. We got a letter saying that [Name] is not doing well. My son is highly academic, the eldest and he started to slack, so the teachers noticed this lack of interest and I phone them and I said, “I’ve just come home from hospital and had the baby and I want to arrange a meeting because I’m worried about my son.” And said, “Why were you in hospital?” And I said, “We told you, my sister informed the school that you need to take, be aware that [Name] is dealing with his trauma at home because I’m in ICU…” Oh we didn’t know. No one passed the message, filtered the message through to his teachers… So the school apologised straight away, but little things like that that you wouldn’t think. I made sure that one of the things on my list was the schools know about my condition, so the children, just in case it affects they children they know why and then can deal with it. The younger children had support from their teachers. ”Don’t worry Mum, we’ll be okay.” Or yes, “Are you looking forward to the baby?” adapted them to the baby. And Mum not being around for so long. But the eldest didn’t get that support at school. And they didn’t even know, and then when they found out they were very comforting towards him. But it had passed, you see for him, it was just a relief that he didn’t talk about it.
 
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