Age at interview: 43
Age at diagnosis: 32
Brief Outline: Rachel was pregnant with her second child. She noticed that the baby had stopped moving and when she got to hospital was told he had died. After delivery she had a haemorrhage and developed amniotic fluid embolism. Doctors had to perform a hysterectomy to save her life.
Background: Rachel is a psychologist, married with three children.

More about me...

Rachel was expecting her second son. She had developed pre-eclampsia with her first pregnancy, and her first son had been very big. She had a miscarriage at three months and then got pregnant again. During her second pregnancy she had no symptoms. Although one blood reading showed high sugar levels in her blood at eight months, the next was normal so her gestational diabetes was missed. 
At 39 weeks she started to feel unwell and noticed that she had not felt the baby moving so decided to go into hospital. She went on her own as her husband was looking after their four year old son at home. On arrival at hospital she was told that the baby was dead. She was induced and delivered the baby 48 hours later. As soon as he was born she was able to hold her son briefly, but then noticed a violent gush of blood. Her last words to her husband were a cry for help, she thought she was dying.
One of the main arteries feeding into her uterus had ruptured and doctors struggled to stop it bleeding. She also developed amniotic fluid embolism, in which amniotic fluid, fetal cells, hair, or other debris enters the mother's blood stream via the placental bed of the womb and triggers an allergic reaction. She was unconscious while they performed a total of four operations. The consultant gynaecologist called in a team from another hospital. They used an innovative whole torso x-ray technique to locate the ruptured artery so they could stem it flow. They also had to perform a hysterectomy. 
Rachel woke up after twelve days in a coma in intensive care to face the death of her son, and the loss of her fertility. She was devastated. She left hospital after a couple of weeks but was soon back in with an infection. But she was determined to get strong quickly and was back at work after four months and took up running. She ran her first 10 km race just nine months later and has since done several marathons. She and her husband were offered therapy and bereavement counseling which was helpful to a point. Three years after the death of her son, they successfully adopted twin girls. She has changed career and is now finishing her training to be a psychologist. 

Rachel started to bleed internally as she was giving birth to her stillborn baby. She remembers...

And my parents arrived and then I went into labour and the induction, the inducement material wasn’t enough so they gave me more. Which is what threw me into a tantrum, the body into a tantrum, because basically it threw too much adrenaline into the system which ruptured the main artery on the right hand side that feeds the uterus. And I started bleeding internally, but they didn’t know that at the time. So here I am trying to push the baby and they wanted to give me an epidural and I didn’t want it. And that saved my life, because had they given me epidural I wouldn’t have been able to push the baby, I would have just died from the internal haematoma. 
Anyway, so I was still in control and the baby, but what happened was I collapsed. I had a bit of water from around the embryo going into the blood stream. It’s called amniotic fluid embolism, and women 99% of the time die from it, because it goes into the brain.
So I collapsed and they sent a sample of my blood to the laboratory during the time I collapsed and the lab thought that this must be a mistake because it was from a live lady. So they thought that the sample, the, the container must have had a bit of water in it, otherwise how come this lady’s still breathing and you know.
So at which point, you know, they called the top surgeon, to be involved because they didn’t, they didn’t foresee that it was going to get so complex, and somehow miraculously after 30 minutes of being out of it, I got back into consciousness and pushed the baby out. And it was just, I remember, I’ll remember until I die. I held him. [Husband] got one of [son]’s old baby grows and we wrapped him up in that. He looked so much like [son]. It was bizarre and then I felt this huge gash of blood coming out and it was like, you know, when you a tap really, really to the full in the bath say. I’m dying. I said to [husband], “Help me I’m dying.” And I collapsed again.
And all I remember after that is that I’m being rushed on wheels somewhere, it got dark, you know, I was on the way out. But I remember that [husband] was running as well trying to cover me, because you know, in hospital they put you in this kind of gown which is quite open at the back and as they were busy rushing me into theatre, he was running with that on top, and that was the last thing I remember.
And then I was out for twelve days. I was in a coma in which time they did four operations and they tried to save my life, because they couldn’t find a leakage, they couldn’t find that artery that was leaking. At which time, you know, it’s a huge haematoma and it’s just a mesh of blood and…
What happened was that they first took, they first opened me, the first operation and looked what can be done? And tried to put gauze there to stop the leakage and so on and it didn’t stop. And the second time they opened they were getting the uterus out. And the third time, and that didn’t help either. 
And I lost 96% of my blood and I remember there was this nurse who told us this story later on, about how she, I mean my Mum told me this story, about how she saw this nurse standing there and sweating away try to get the blood into me, with the [bang bang bang] blood sachets, quicker than they went out.
So… I was the illest person in that hospital for twenty years. I got that in writing [laugh]. So I mean they were losing me. So what they did, because I was young, they decided to invest money. It cost them a lot of money. They, they flew in a helicopter from [name] another hospital, with a team of eleven people who did this extra operation. At the time it was qu

After she came out of hospital, Rachel took up running seriously and was focused on getting “back...

You had run before that?
I ran before, but I just ran say a couple of circles in our local park. Just to you know, keep fit. But this time I ran in order. So I started 10k runs and then I went to half marathon and then I did quite a few marathons and it was extremely therapeutic. I mean running for me, is my way of being connected to my body and feeling alive. Being out in nature. It’s, other than painting and reading probably the most important thing I do, and probably my biggest passion.
And that’s really developed since this experience.
Yes, yes, yes. I’ve been doing it all through, yes.
And what about... I mean you went back into hospital because you were ill and then you discharged yourself. Did you have any follow up after?
Yes. I did and I remember to one follow up I came, three best girlfriends came from abroad, from my home country to support me through that period. Difficult period of December, January and my sister came again. So with one of them whose a fashion photographer I went on a shopping spree and we picked some really nice Islington shops, very expensive and I remember, I just thought treat yourself and I did. And, you know, that the gynaecologist surgeon who saved my life, saw me all through those weeks you know, being extremely inflated and you know, not looking aesthetically pleasing, and then I walked in my, in these new best clothes kind of thing, and by then I’d also lost weight, my tummy went down. I looked closer to normality and he was shocked. He said, “I wouldn’t recognise you.” And he went, “What did you do to yourself?” And then he something to [husband], “Now I understand why you were so by her bedside. So concerned about losing her.” Something like that you know. But that’s what I remember from my follow up [laughs]. That he came and saw me in a different light and it was very important for me to be back on my feet and to, to, to, what I remember from these weeks after, you know, December, January is that I couldn’t read a book. I couldn’t lift a book physically. My sister-in-law sent me this really hard covered, beautiful book and I couldn’t read it, and I couldn’t concentrate on TV. I never watch TV, but we made me, especially for me some kind of subscriptions to some channel, cinema, as if I couldn’t watch anything.

Rachel woke up after losing her baby and a hysterectomy. She couldn’t speak, felt swollen, and...


It was, yes, it’s very memorable to me. I woke up and I had this huge tube inside my throat. I couldn’t move a finger, my whole body was sedated. And I couldn’t speak, and I was bloated. I was really huge from all the liquids retaining. And there was a young nurse, a trainee nurse and she, she had piercings everywhere, I remember that. Because she was the first face, you know, over me kind of thing, and she wasn’t very, she was very young. She must have been 21, or 22 Canadian and she wasn’t very empathetic to me. And I wanted that thing out, because I just, it was painful in my throat. And she didn’t agree. I mean probably the doctors ordered it would stay there for twelve hours or something just to make sure there was more oxygen coming in and I just did this and nodded my head. You know, I needed to communicate, I need this out. I couldn’t speak. No sound came out. So I was just like making… And they wanted me to write, but I couldn’t write anything, so this is why I have this here, I’ve got a bit of scar under my bottom lip because this from doing left right, left right, no take it out. And she was so awful, I remember starting to cry and choking because she was just not sympathetic to me. Anyway I remember vaguely [husband] and my parents. But what I remember most is when I woke up on that first day, when I needed to go back to sleep at night. I was so worried to go to sleep. My sister was with, who is an angel. My sister’s one of the kindest people you know and, and I was so worried that the baby will come and haunt me and I felt guilty for the death of the baby and  I couldn’t, I begged [name] my sister not to go to sleep, so that she keeps talking to me and I stay awake. I was so afraid of going to sleep. And indeed she went to sleep, she couldn’t, she collapsed and I called the nurse and I asked her to wake my sister up. And the nurse said, “No she needs to sleep.” And then I fell asleep and indeed the baby came back and where I’m from, the country I’m from there’s a, there was when I was much younger a movement of Fascist party and because I’m a designer and painter in training  when I was very young, a teenager, 17, I did a whole project about that electoral campaign of that particular party and so they used black, white and yellow, which was together very  strong powerful quite Fascist combination of colours, and those colours came. That’s how the baby came to me in these colours as if he, with the fist that was their logo, and he was, and I talked to him in my dream that night and I asked him for his forgiveness and I said that I loved him. And then we kind of made peace and then I could sleep and my sister woke up and she was crying and crying because she realised she kind of disappointed me. 


Rachel lost her baby, and had a hysterectomy. Her older son was five at the time and they had...

And that was when I started running. And I started running in this summer I did my first long run. I mean I ran before then, but I never did kind of serious running. And we… went for a holiday to Italy on that summer and [son] was 5 at the time. Five and a half. Said something like in the airport in Bologna on the way out to holiday, “If you won’t buy me these sweets I’ll kill myself.” And that’s when I thought we’d better go for some therapy. 
And we did. We went to about seven sessions or something, supposedly on the back of what [son] was experiencing, but actually we both needed it very much as well. And, we also had some bereavement counselling before then, when I was still at home. Those three month of being home, in December, January, February. 
And would you say it’s had an ongoing effect on, on him?
It’s a very good question. I often wondered about it. He definitely remembers it. He definitely really wanted to have a brother. When we adopted the twins eventually we had the two girls. He was very nice to them. He had had a long wait. I mean he was seven by the time they appeared on the scene so… three years or so… he had a lot on his shoulders, because we were two very doting parents and that in itself is hard for a single child to have these two adults. And he’s a very healthy, mentally healthy young teenager now and knock on wood doing really well academically, extremely well socially. And excelling in everything he touches. He, you know, he’s good at sports, he’s a prefect, he’s this and that. So you can’t see anything very clearly, evidently but he has his sensitivities. I can’t put my finger on it, and I’m probably too involved to be able to analyse my own child. 

Rachel talked about how ten years on from her emergency and the loss of her son, she and her...


It varies. Depending on where my life will be [laughs]. So, it’s a bit of theory kind of impression. Where will the electron be when you will look for it? But it will always be with me. The loss of my son and the trajectory that our life took as a result. There are so many losses entangled there, that I think I’m still. We’re now in therapy, my husband and me, and we are just about to start untangling that yet again. Whereas ten years ago, we thought we are kind of dealt with it and so on. I think, and this is something that I know professionally, you know, I have clients who come ten years after brain haemorrhage or ten years after divorce and they are still having loads of issues which they think they’ve dealt with, back ten years ago they were fine. But its, I, I use as comparison rays of the sun or rays of light from an old star that already died. It still gets seen on earth once the star already died. So there is there are ramifications to things that you have experienced a long, long time ago. It seems to be a long time ago, into your present and I’m sure that it makes sense, it will be also into my future.


Rachel went abroad to adopt twins, which was “very healing”.

And tell me a little bit more about the adoption. And how easy or difficult that was?
Yes, so it was difficult. It took two years and you know, six months of home study and then the country where we adopted from closed its gates to adoption, just as we were about to hand up our paper from the DFES all ready to go. So we took the referral of the twins without knowing that we would be able to pull it through and we still had to put in a huge lump sum which we were not going to get back. At the time it was the price of a room. So it was just like a lot of money to put on, on stake. But we did it nevertheless. I was really optimistic. I am in my nature. 
And then nothing moved and so they sort of got their referral when they were two months of age. We got the photos and the circumference of body, organs etc. And then every two or three weeks we would get more and more photos which we would put on our mantelpiece and eventually… I decided that the eight month, so six months passed and nothing moved and I decided enough is enough and we really wrapped ourselves and moved there. And initially we were going to go for seven weeks over a winter holiday and we stayed seven months. And it was the best time of our lives, in my life anyway. I had a fantastic time there. It’s a beautiful country and I made loads of friends and we had loads of adopting friends there, which is a bit of an industry there, and [son] we found a wonderful school for [son] and he had great friends which we’re still in contact with and it was a very special period in our lives, because it was really. And my husband commuted back and forth England to our new home abroad, temporary home. It was a beautiful period.
Was it a healing period?
Yes. I often tell the story to the twins. They really are wishing to hear it again and again and it was when I first took them from the children’s home to our rented house. I was pushing, I had one on my in a snugly on my body and another one in a pushchair and they have these cobble stones in that town where we lived. It’s kind of old, old medieval town almost, beautiful town and I remember trying to push the pushchair which wasn’t designed for those cobble stones and I was so happy, I felt like a stone had been lifted off my chest, because for those years when I was, you know, we got them in December ‘03, so its three years since, yes, three years since the last and two years since the beginning of adoption process… I was so in pain in these three years, every time I would see a baby, every time we would stay with... You know, all our friends were having babies in these years, and we would go and stay with someone and you know, here’s a baby crying, here’s a baby laughing. Is the baby… is the Mother pregnant? It was, I was in pain, I was in agony. I was so wounded. And that was very healing. Yes. Very, very healing.
I studied a new language of that country. I did loads of sports, swimming and running and it was sunny and all these friends. It was a really good period.
And you’ve had them here for four years now, is that…?
No. We had… so we got them when they were eight months of age. 
You told me that yes.
And we lived there until they were one year and two month. And then we came back the summer ‘04 and they were one year and two months. They’re eight now, so we had them, we’ve had them here in this country seven years now.

Rachel decided she was going to train as a psychologist while she was still in the hospital.

Now I took the decision when I woke from coma still in A & E to change profession. Because I had dreams about my CD rom in purple colours, my hallucinations were about that partly and I thought it can’t be that on my death bed but this is what I thought about. Nobody would care if the CD looked less good because I’m in a coma. But I want to make a difference, so the next time I die people will mind. 
And that’s when I decided I’ll go to psychology because I always was interested in psychology. And I got offered based on my Masters in Multimedia, I got a sort of fantastic job at the university where I did the Masters, which is a very good university and I couldn’t refuse it. So I took the job. I was managing a team of multidisciplinary designer kind of team, and during that time we tried surrogacy a couple of attempts it didn’t work out. We then decided to adopt and we then started the journey of adoption and… by the time the referral of the twins came up, I decided I’m going to chuck my job and I’m going to go, international adoption and so I’m going to go and leave the country while my twins are growing because I wanted to be there with them. 
So we did that. For a long time we lived there. We changed countries. And then we came back. Seven months later I changed profession indeed. I started a conversion to psychology and after a couple of years when I’d done that I became an assistant psychologist etc and I worked my way up. Did, worked as an assistant researcher etc. It’s a long journey.
During that time, my partner’s career changed dramatically and that had an effect on the dynamic of the family because whereas before we had a kind of control over his time and he was a very involved Father to [son] from zero to five. With the twins he wasn’t. So there was, there were some issues there for me. 
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