I have always believed in the idea that you need to be your own health advocate. Five days after my husband and I celebrated the birth of our second child I had to put that philosophy into action when I suffered massive postpartum hemorrhage. The ordeal involved two emergency surgeries and the loss of 80 percent of my blood.
When I woke up in recovery after the first surgery the gushing began again and the recovery nurses, who are likely used to groggy patients, were a bit surprised by my questioning of the blood products they were ordering when the blood type started changing. It turns out I'm the universal recipient, and a good thing, as couriers had to be sent out to Chicago and South Bend, the two closest major cities, in opposite directions for more blood products.
With a uterine embolization during the second surgery they were able to save my life within an hour of bleeding out. But that required giving my doctor permission to stop normal blood flow to my uterus if necessary. That meant future pregnancies were not recommended.
Perhaps the biggest self-advocacy I conducted that very long day was in the surgical theater as I waited to be put under for the second surgery. "I can't find a pulse," I could hear the anesthesiologist saying as I shook uncontrollably and felt incredibly cold. I remember thinking, "The attitude I fall asleep with could be the determining factor in whether or not I wake up."
So I wished for someone to hold my other hand and cover my foot and knock me out quick so I could maybe relax enough to help them get a vein. When I woke up in ICU on a ventilator I was told I could have the breathing tube removed if I could breathe on my own for half an hour with the machine off.
Again, silent self-advocacy kicked in. "Remain calm. What's half an hour?" I told my very uncomfortable self. I got off that ventilator and, being an avid breastfeeder, was even able to keep my milk supply up with the help of a wonderful lactation consultant. I felt like a warrior mama in my ICU bed while the lactation consultant and my husband had "races" to see who could collect the most milk.
I feel blessed to continue the medical writing career I had already started before this ordeal. Now my philosophy of self-advocacy is stronger than ever and I'm able to help others on their journeys to better health.