A-Z

Hannah

Age at interview: 36
Age at diagnosis: 34
Brief Outline: Hannah had an emergency caesarean section with her first child, who was five. She needed an emergency c-section to deliver her second child. Complications, including a uterine rupture, lead to a haemorrhage and surgery. She spent several days in ITU and HDU before being reunited with her baby.
Background: Hannah, a 34 year old editor, is married with two children. White British.

More about me...

Hannah’s life-threatening event took place during the birth of her second child. She had had an emergency caesarean section with her first son (who was 5) and was hoping for a vaginal birth after caesarean (VBAC) with her second child. Her labour started naturally but did not progress well, until she was taken in for an emergency caesarean. Her baby daughter was delivered and was fine. But Hannah had complications. The doctor cut through her bladder while delivering the baby, her previous caesarean scar ran and another rupture developed. She started to haemorrhage and lost a lot of blood. After surgery Hannah was in intensive care (ITU) for 2 days, a high dependency unit (HDU) for 3 days and the ward for another 2 days. She has been left with several complications to her digestive system as a result of where the scars healed internally, and follows a strict low fibre diet, to avoid a blocked colon. She did not have a hysterectomy, but has been advised against having any other children. 
 
 

Hannah was pregnant with her second child. She felt a lot of pain and discomfort and found her...

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Very painful. Couldn’t sleep on one side. Couldn’t sleep on my back at all. Whenever I slept on my back it was excruciatingly painful, because things were being squished. A lot of pain, sort of bladder region, because obviously that was in the wrong place and getting completely squished. A lot of hip pain headaches as well. Just lots of things, that were sort of, you know, this isn’t really right, because I had a really easy pregnancy before, and this was very strange. And then when, going into the midwife’s and saying, “Well you know I think this is, there’s something not quite right here.” And they would write down ‘Hannah feels uncomfortable’ [laughs]. Yes, because they don’t… you’ve got no way of telling them look I’m normally quite good at coping with this sort of thing because they don’t actually know you.

 

During the birth of her second child, Hannah had a uterine rupture. She was taken through for an...

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My husband was there. They started the Section and almost immediately, there was something in the room, having had a previous Section, which was an emergency but had gone quite smoothly, knew that there was something wrong. And what had happened was when they’d opened me up, they’d sliced open my bladder. Because they didn’t… What they didn’t know was that my bladder had stuck to the previous Section scar. Which is one of the things they warn you about, actually, when they do their five second thing, before you sign the form to go into Section. So, there is a risk of bladder injury, blah blah blah. But you think oh that’s not going to happen to me, and what could you do about it anyway? To be honest, baby’s got to come out. There had been clues about this actually while I was pushing, the midwife kept asking me if I’d emptied my bladder, and I kept saying, yes, I have. And it was empty. But of course the reason why she thought I hadn’t was it was in completely the wrong place, but it hadn’t been spotted at all. 
 
And so they were all calling for a gosh, what is it, what’s a bladder specialist called?
 
A urologist?
 
Urologist yes, and baby was out by this stage, baby was absolutely fine, huge, 9 3 but fine. And they hadn’t thought it was big, they’d said it was a normal size, so that was another reason why it was all a bit…. 
 
Oh yes. They were calling for a urologist and I was in my haze of drugs and weirdness and thought they were shouting for a neurologist, and thought there was something wrong with the baby, but there wasn’t. Our baby was fine. 
 
Then started to be able to feel. This had gone on for quite a while now. I was losing a lot of blood and at this stage, other things had gone wrong. It’s while they were trying to fix that, because the bladder was fixed quite normally, well somehow my uterus was injured and it caused another rupture in my uterus and another area of bleeding as well in my uterus. It wasn’t really explained. No one really knows what happened. So it started bleeding out basically. 
 
And at that stage, because we’d been in there for quite a while, the anaesthetic wore off a bit, the epidural wore off and so I started to be able to feel things. So started shouting and the anaesthetist quickly put me under and my husband was sent out. And at that stage, of course, I didn’t know anything about it. So I was actually fine, and then it was him sitting outside for a few hours, you know, that had this nightmare of you know, sitting there with a lovely baby, but not knowing what was happening to me. 
 
And then, you know, they battled on and eventually I was okay. And I was sent up to intensive care, because I was really quite ill. And woke up in the intensive care as they were taking the breathing tube out. And woke up with various, you know, all of the lines and stuff and two catheters, internal and external and all the business you have in intensive care. Which was quite a shock, because I thought it couldn’t get any worse than the last birth. But it had [laughs].
 
 

When she was in intensive care, Hannah had to wait a long time to see her baby, because of the...

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So was he allowed to come and be with you in intensive care at all?
 
No, no, he had to wait quite a long time actually. I think it was… it was a good few hours, yes. I don’t know why. He could probably tell you, but I don’t really know why. And then I didn’t see the baby until, I think it was about 2 o’clock in the afternoon and I’d given birth at 2 in the morning. Because we had to fight to be allowed to, for her to come up intensive care, all sorts of things, that you think, I shouldn’t really have to cope with this while I’m in intensive care. For goodness sake. But I suppose it was a measure of how well I was by then that, you know, that you were able to have a conversation about it. Because they were worried that the baby would get ill from intensive care and then the intensive care people were saying, “Well actually it’s much cleaner up here, than it is on your ward. If anything you’re bringing, you know, stuff with you.” So there was this ridiculous fight between them. 
 
And then she, I mean you’re allowed to push, the family aren’t allowed to push the baby around the hospital, only the breast feeding counsellor or a midwife is allowed to, and they weren’t available for hours, and that’s why I couldn’t see the baby.  There were all sorts of weird rules and regulations about why, who can push a baby in a trolley round the hospital. It’s all very strange.  So that was why we had to wait so long, because the breast feeding counsellor wasn’t there.  
 
 

Hannah recently found a GP who had “transformed” her health in helping her with her ongoing side...

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I’ve only found her recently though. I’ve got a, my GP clinic, you don’t see the same GP all the time. There’s like ten of them almost, and you see whoever, you know, if you want an appointment Wednesday at eight, you’ll get whoever is free. But I’ve just, in the last six months, found a GP here whose amazing and who has like transformed my health actually.
 
I went in to her and told her what had happened, and what I was experiencing. She was like, oh well, are you not on this, and this, this. And I said, “No, no one suggested that.” And so I’m on different medication, or some medication and it has made a massive difference. A massive difference. I was in constant pain before and now it’s completely gone. So that’s been amazing.
 
 

Hannah felt very tired for the first year after her near miss, and was perhaps more “cross” than...

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And has it had any impact on the children at all, do you think?
 
Only I think in that, for the first year afterwards, I was very tired. And very cross, just because I was tired. Normal levels of you know, new baby crossness, not depressed. But just physically very tired a lot of the time. And I think it makes you a worst parent doesn’t it? So, but not I would say… overwhelmingly, but you can’t tell, can you, it affects some children. You think you’re going to escape things and then they might turn round when they are 25 and say, “You, you really ruined me with that six months where you were…” I don’t know. I don’t think so though. 
 
 

Hannah was in intensive care and not able to see her daughter for 12 hours. She was frustrated by...

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So was he allowed to come and be with you in intensive care at all?
 
No, no, he had to wait quite a long time actually. I think it was it was a good few hours, yes. I don’t know why. He could probably tell you, but I don’t really know why. And then I didn’t see the baby until, I think it was about 2 o’clock in the afternoon and I’d given birth at 2 in the morning. Because we had to fight to be allowed to, for her to come up to intensive care, all sorts of things, that you think, I shouldn’t really have to cope with this while I’m in intensive care. For goodness sake. But I suppose it was a measure of how well I was by then that, you know, that you were able to have a conversation about it. Because they were worried that the baby would get ill from intensive care and then the intensive care people were saying, “Well actually it’s much cleaner up here, than it is on your ward. If anything you’re bringing, you know, stuff with you.” So there was this ridiculous fight between them. 
 
And then she, I mean you’re allowed to push, the family aren’t allowed to push the baby around the hospital, only the breast feeding counsellor or a midwife is allowed to, and they weren’t available for hours, and that’s why I couldn’t see the baby. There were all sorts of weird rules and regulations about why, who can push a baby in a trolley round the hospital. It’s all very strange. So that was why we had to wait so long, because the breast feeding counsellor wasn’t there. 
 
Who were you dealing with at that point? Was that intensive care? Nurses that you were talking to, or your husband was talking to?
 
No we had, they were very, very good actually. We didn’t have any problems with them at all. They were very although they weren’t very keyed up on breast feeding or using the pumps or anything like that. And would say quite unhelpful things, but that’s not their area of specialty, so you wouldn’t really expect to… But no, it was mainly negotiating with the post natal ward staff, who were quite set in their ways about things. And that we found that actually more difficult than what had happened in many way. 
 
What dealing with their intransigence?
 
Yes, the fact that my husband wasn’t allowed to stay overnight with the baby . They said, your options are, if you want to stay with the baby, you have to sign the baby out. And he said, “Well I can’t do that. She’s had a difficult birth. And there might, you know, be things wrong with it we can’t.” “Ah no, but the security says you can’t stay in the ward.” And he said, “Oh fair enough, I’m a man, I understand that.” “You’re not allowed to sleep with a baby in the intensive care waiting room. We don’t have another space where you can be with the baby.” And so he said, “Oh can my sister come in and be with the baby?” And they said, “Oh no, because it’s a security risk.” And then he said, “Well actually she’s police officer.” And they were like, “Oh no, we just can’t.” 

 

 

Hannah was able to establish breastfeeding while she was still in intensive care. But it was a...

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And I remember… because I wasn’t that ill. I think I came round quite quickly. I was able to feed my daughter in intensive care. That was quite nice because they said; they’d never had a baby brought up before. And that was quite good, because I insistent I was going to feed her. Even though they did insist on bottle feeding her overnight, on the ward, which I was really cross about and my husband was really cross about.
 
So you know, this sort of thing was quite difficult and they were supposed to send a courier up to get pumped milk in the middle of the night and it was my responsibility to do it, but I was, you know, off my head on morphine.
 
What do you mean it was your responsibility to do it?
 
I had to ask, you know, because you have a nurse at the end of your bed, and I was really, I was feeling really rather poorly and I was on morphine pump, every, you know, four minutes or whatever, and so I had to say to her, “I want, I think I should pump now, some milk.” And then she would do it, sort it out, and then she would call for the courier to come and get it. It was all on me, you know, and I just wasn’t able to do it, you know, I just, I wasn’t really that aware of what was going on. And so baby was cup fed overnight which really annoyed me.  Because they really didn’t need to do that, you know, but it was just easier for the post natal staff to do it.
 
So where was she overnight then?
 
On the ward.
 
By herself?
 
No, well no they put them in  I think there’s a little room off the nurses’ station where they put babies that  but yes, that felt bad actually, you know.
 
And did you have any problems with the suction breast feeding?
 
No. No I knew, well I find it easy with, not easy at first actually because it’s never easy at first is it? But I knew that I could do it because I had breast fed my son. And so, and it was just, I was just insistent that I was going to do it. Because I haven’t even, I haven’t managed this natural birth that I wanted, there’s no way that I’m not feeding this baby, and the breast feeding counsellor was actually very negative and said, “You know, I don’t think you’ll be able to.” And I was like, “I think I will actually.” Until she brought up.
 
And actually she came up first and squeezed some colostrum out and she said, “Oh yes, you have managed.” I said, “Yes, yes, thank you.” And then she relented and she brought the baby up, and it fed quite happily and then they took it away again. It was all very strange, because it was the first time I’d seen the baby properly and yet there was five people there. So I felt that I couldn’t have, I couldn’t be over… oh it was very odd and I was on morphine as well, and I was just, you know, and so I wanted to have, you know, a nice moment with my baby and yet it just wasn’t really at all [laughs]. And I couldn’t hold her properly because I still had like a central line in and tube down my nose and it was all, you know. It was all very difficult so…
 
 

Hannah was discharged home with a catheter in. Her husband had to empty the bag for her. She had...

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But the most painful thing was when they took the internal catheter out.  We went back in, I think two days after I was, two days after I went home, just as a day patient. And they don’t give you any anaesthetic for it, and then basically… because it goes into your stomach and into your bladder, like when you’ve got a normal one. Well they had that just to test, so they can whether you’ve got blood coming out or it’s healing properly, whatever. But there’s no way of getting it out other than just pulling it out. And, and the scar, it is healed up by then. And so you’ve got this quite big balloon that’s got to come up through a hole that’s sealed up.
 
And I said, “Oh is it going to hurt?” And she said, “Oh it’ll be uncomfortable.” And my husband very helpfully said, “Oh well they say that, that’s a euphemism for yes it’s going to hurt.” And I was like, “Oh, great.”  And that was, when she pulled that out that was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced. You know, they ask you for the scale of pain, it’s a nought to ten and I think labouring. I’m all right with labouring actually. I’d say that was about a six, you know, even when it gets bad it’s not that bad. But this, it felt, I imagine it’s what it would feel like to be stabbed. And that was awful and I just thought… And I had that moment of I can’t believe you’ve just done that. It was extraordinarily painful, and actually the most painful things about the recovery, were not the big surgical stuff, it was all of the places where the lines had been in. They were really painful. They were all bruised. It was all up my arms, and the one in my neck and stuff and those were really painful and really awkward, because every time, you know, you catch them on things and stuff like that. So yes, that was the worse, and coming home with a catheter, two catheters, in effect, was horrible. Because I wasn’t given any real advice on what to do and my husband was having to empty out, in fact he was having to empty out in hospital.
 
And so that sort of, it’s a real lack of pride. You know, you feel, I can’t believe my husband’s having to do this for me, and you just think, oh God. On top of everything else this is just the final sort of embarrassment really. That’s quite bad, and you know, you’re walking around and you’ve got it strapped to your leg and stuff. You’re not really given any advice on what you should be doing with it, or how it should be, or…
 
 

Hannah felt that people could not relate to what she had been through. She fees her experiences...

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Obviously, I have, you know, told my friends and we have discussed it a bit. But I think when things are beyond people’s own experiences, people can’t really relate to them in the same way.
 
And have you found that? Have you really felt that they just don’t understand?
 
Yes, I think so. I have to catch myself from being a bit judgy with people when they’re moaning about stuff sometimes. Because you know, I have a real awareness now, that bad things can, it’s such a cliché… bad things can happen to you. And until something bad happens to you, you don’t really, you know, you do go through life feeling you’re a bit sort of Teflon covered and there was like, I know those things happen, but thought it won’t happen to me, but they actually do, and so it has made me. Actually it has made me more reticent in things I do, more aware that things can happen and, and a bit more anxious I suppose actually. I think I am a bit more anxious about things. Yes, I am. I think that’s probably quite normal.
 
 

Hannah felt that her experiences of uterine rupture had made her much more anxious about her...

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Yes, I think so. I have to catch myself from being a bit judgy with people when they’re moaning about stuff sometimes. Because you know, I have a real awareness now, that bad things can, it’s such a cliché… bad things can happen to you And until something bad happens to you, you don’t really, you know, you do go through life feeling you’re a bit sort of Teflon covered and there was like, I know those things happen, but thought they won’t happen to me, but they actually do, and so it has made me. Actually it has made me more reticent in things I do, more aware that things can happen and, and a bit more anxious I suppose actually. I think I am a bit more anxious about things. Yes, I am. I think that’s probably quite normal.
 
Anxious about yourself? Anxious about your husband?
 
Anxious about things happening to the children healthwise. But everyone is anxious like that I know. But really anxious about that. Anxious healthwise, no not really about myself. Just generally, I think. Just have a heightened like, you know, crowds and things I don’t really like any more. I don’t like being in a situation where I could. I can be in a situation where I’m in a crowded underground station, and I’m much more easily now, able to think, this might happen, and this might happen, and this might happen. And make myself, almost make myself more anxious. Which is odd. Like it was almost as if the whole experience has opened up a sort of line to anxiety, which I can now access. Whereas before I didn’t have that. I can’t explain that really but it’s a sort of feeling like that before, has allowed me to sort of I can slip back into it, without noticing I think a little bit. I don’t know whether you could get rid of that but talking to someone, I don’t know. I think it’s probably quite a natural reaction. I don’t know whether it’s sort of… I’m not sure.
 
Do you feel that’s changing? Is that improving do you think? Or do you think that’s going stay with you?
 
I think it will stay with me, yes. Sometimes when I lie in bed at night, I can easily start sort of day dreaming about bad things which I never used to do before, and I can sort of make myself really quite anxious so I can’t sleep and then have to wake my husband up, and get some reassurance. So I suppose that is an effect that’s stayed with me, that I haven’t really thought about or explored that much…
 
 

Hannah felt that although she was physically able to have children, she couldn’t because it was...

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Well there was also in that meeting a question of what would happen if wanted to have a further pregnancy. Because the midwife had told me, “Huh, no, don’t be ridiculous.” When they looked through my notes they said, “You know, you’re lucky to be alive. It would be extremely dangerous and ridiculous.” We don’t want to see you back here basically. So I was quite friendly with some of the midwives and you know. He had said however, “Oh well, if you really wanted to, you could come in and talk about it. You’d obviously have to be under our care here. And not at a smaller hospital, and we’d have very intensively manage it.” So they didn’t say no, which has left us with a horrible sort of, because I’m physically able to have children and yet I can’t. Because I know it would be far too dangerous, no matter what… I know I would be incredibly dangerous. And as well, the same pregnancy as I had before, because all those issues are still in place. So I just couldn’t face a pregnancy like that, and nor could I face another Section, and I don’t think my husband could either. So you’re left sort of in that position of you know, worry about getting pregnant. Worry obviously what we’d have to do if we got pregnant. And all these things. And so we did talk about that in the meeting as well, but I would have liked a sort of clearer. I don’t know. I’d like to be able to go back now and say can we do, can we actually find out, what is actually wrong with me now, in terms of my digestion and all this sort of stuff. And in some way try and quantify the risk of pregnancy, even though I wouldn’t I wouldn’t go through another pregnancy, but it doesn’t stop you wanting it does it?
 
No. 
 
It’s hard.
 
And do you think it would have been helpful if they’d said something else? If they’d been more definitive?
 
Yes. But I realise they couldn’t because if they say, “Oh you can’t have another child.” Is then I suppose a legal thing, and they’d worry that I would sue them. But it would have been nice to hear, you know, it would be far too dangerous and then you could close it off in your mind… So, yes, I think that is probably the most difficult thing to deal with, going forward actually. Yes. The fact that if I’d had two natural births, I would probably have been having another child now, hopefully. We don’t feel the family’s complete in that way, so … 
 
But everyone has to come to terms with that, you know, some people never feel complete do they? At some point you have to stop. But I think it’s always harder when you’re told you have to, but you know things are conspiring against you. That’s quite difficult. And the worry about getting pregnant is difficult as well, because obviously, I mean, we’d have to terminate and that would be awful, but you have to do it. And God, hideous.
 
And not having any more children is a constant, you know, because obviously your friends are all busy getting pregnant and having children which is lovely, and the family, and everyone is. And it’s a sort of joy and it’s great. But you do feel a bit… every time. And you know, the thought of never breast feeding another baby, which is such a source of you know, loveliness. And that’s difficult. But it’s not, I wouldn’t say it’s overwhelmingly difficult. It’s just one of those things. You know, like bereavement. Like my mother has died and that comes back to you, and when it comes back to you, it comes back to you with intensity, but the gaps in between grow. I thin
 

Hannah had a uterine rupture (a tear opening the womb directly into the abdominal cavity) and...

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Yes, I suppose, I just, I just don’t know. We weren’t really given any information, just sort of you go away and you think. We weren’t, I suppose we weren’t told what would happen if, what they expected, how long that would take to recover from and what any ongoing issues would be. Or yes, and how to sleep. Just practical stuff, like how to sleep and where it should be… Because it’s quite hard to sleep. The internal one’s not that bad actually, but the external one was like a big tube that comes out so it sort of gets in the way of dressing and it’s just everywhere and you just think, oh my God. I mean how has this happened, but suddenly, I went in to have a baby and I’ve come out really quite medically…. I don’t know, it’s a very odd thing. Obviously it must be much worse for people who’ve had the uterus removed and things, but you just don’t expect it. 

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