After trying to get pregnant for several months, Crystal, 37, and her husband Josh decided to pursue invitro fertilization (IVF). Her procedure was successful, but at 7-weeks-pregnant, she experienced a subchrorionic hematoma – blood between the uterine lining and the outer fetal membrane. While it caused spotting, Crystal’s physicians told her not to worry.
Once she was 10-weeks-pregnant, she began seeing Jennifer McNulty, M.D. who is a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at the Cherese Mari Laulhere BirthCare Center at MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach, due to her chronic hypertension (high blood pressure). Maternal-fetal medicine specialists are OB-GYNs with additional training to care for high-risk pregnancies. Since Crystal had hypertension prior to pregnancy, it automatically categorized her pregnancy as high risk.
“Everything was great during the pregnancy,” says Crystal. “My blood pressure was managed through one medication the entire time, and I continued working.”
However, during her 38-week appointment on a Monday, Crystal’s blood pressure was at a level concerning to her doctors. Dr. McNulty recommended induction, and Crystal began the process at 10 a.m. She received an epidural the following morning (Tuesday) at 5 a.m. That evening, at 10 p.m., she began to push.
After 3.5 hours of pushing, it was decided that the best course of action was to proceed with cesarean birth, and at 2 a.m. on Wednesday, Crystal had a cesarean section. With the C-section completed, Crystal, Josh and their newborn daughter, Elia, were back in their room bonding.
“Suddenly, I started feeling lightheaded and couldn’t breathe well,” says Crystal. Her nurses checked on her uterus and she began hemorrhaging (experiencing a large loss of blood). Within 30 seconds, 15 clinical team members were in Crystal’s room providing the care she needed and discussing the course of action.
She was rushed back into surgery – leaving Josh with their new baby – to start a massive blood transfusion protocol. Crystal received six units of blood, four units of plasma and two packs of platelets, which replaced more than two-thirds of the blood in her body. Miraculously, the team saved her uterus.
Due to it being such a complex procedure, Crystal needed to be intubated and was taken to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Long Beach Medical Center. In addition to being Los Angeles and Orange Counties’ only hospital with pediatric and maternity sub-specialists available 24/7, sharing a campus with Long Beach Medical Center means adult specialists are also at the same location to provide care in any possible situation arising with a pregnant or postpartum patient.
“I was on a ventilator for six hours, and in the ICU for 24 hours,” says Crystal. “During that time, every member of the care team was fantastic. Josh and Elia visited me in the ICU and I was even able to breastfeed while I was there. The whole situation gave me a lot of anxiety, but everyone went above and beyond for me. One nurse just sat and held my hand while my support person went to the bathroom because I didn’t want to be alone.”
After 24 hours in the ICU, Crystal was moved back to the Perinatal Special Care Unit in the BirthCare Center. She spent six days in the unit until her blood pressure was under control.
“Every time I saw someone coming in to take my blood pressure, it would spike,” says Crystal. “I just thought, what if something happens again. One of my nurses knew I was struggling with this and offered to provide guided meditation prior to my blood pressure checks. She was very understanding of my anxiety, and really calmed me down.”
Today, Elia is 5-months-old, and Crystal has recovered from her traumatic birth experience.
“My recovery was painful both physically and emotionally,” says Crystal. “Thankfully, I was at Miller Children’s & Women’s with the best doctors and care teams. They acted quickly to save my life, and my uterus, and they took such great care of Josh and Elia while I was recovering. I never expected to have such an eventful delivery, but I’m so grateful that I was at a shared hospital campus prepared for such situations.”