Maternal Health

Loreen Odongo: I woke up in the ICU to find my baby had been delivered

 Just like the other two pregnancies, my third pregnancy was a smooth ride until I got to the seventh month, in February 2018.

I woke up with a terrible headache which, I assumed was the usual pregnancy headache. I just took lots of water. Later, I started coughing, and just like the headache, I swept it under the carpet though it came with a loss of appetite. Being a teacher in a private school, I was still going to work despite constant fatigue and swollen legs. When I went for my antenatal visit, however, I was told everything was fine despite my concerns.

I talked to my colleague about my bouts of headaches and swollen legs. She advised me to go back to the hospital. However, I decided to change the hospital altogether. A urinalysis test showed that I had a high level of protein in my urine which, was a sign of preeclampsia. I was put on high blood pressure drugs and booked for a review after one week.

A week later, the headache was too much that I barely slept. I decided to pass by the hospital on my way to work. While preparing myself, I passed out and started convulsing while biting my tongue; I lost the tip of my tongue. It is sensitive to date.

The doctor at the clinic recommended they transfer me to a bigger hospital with better facilities since I needed an operation to save one of us.

Loreen shortly before being taken to the theatre

All this time, I was in a coma. The doctor plainly said my chances of survival are slim. Since my pressure was so high, I was put under observation so that it goes down a little before surgery. At around 5 p.m., my 1.5-kilograms son was born. He was tired, could not breathe on his own, and had jaundice. They took him to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for treatment. Since I was still in a coma, I could not breastfeed him. Formula milk was the best next thing to breast milk. He, however, reacted so badly to it.

Even after the surgery, I did not wake up. I had to be taken straight to the ICU. My kidneys failed. I underwent dialysis while in the ICU. My blood pressure, on the other hand, was still high.

On the 8th day at the ICU, I woke up. It was like I had slept for a few hours only difference was, I was in a room full of machines and beeping sounds. I wanted to know what had happened because I could hardly remember anything. I had even forgotten that I was pregnant leave alone having a baby. My people had to bring me up to speed.

Three days after being transferred to the general ward, I was wheeled to the nursery to see the baby. He had since been named Zakariya by the dad. Baby Zakariya was as tiny as a kitten with tubes and pipes all over his little body. At first, I refused that he was mine.

Little Zakariya

I had to hit the ground running by starting to express milk for the baby. It was not easy! Remember, I was unconscious for eight days. I had a swollen tongue following the convulsion. Eating or drinking was an uphill task. Without eating or drinking, I could not produce milk. Besides, I still had the dialysis tube on my breast, which made expressing painful. On the other hand, I could not breastfeed the baby directly because he was underweight.

Two weeks later, my baby had gained weight to 1.7kg. I could breastfeed him. Jaundice had cleared, he could also breathe properly. For the first time, I went with him to the ward after being discharged from the nursery. Meanwhile, I was still on blood pressure and diabetes treatment.

It had gotten so overwhelming in the ward. I just wanted to go home. I thought of my two other kids every day. I left them asleep and disappeared for a whole month. I pleaded with the doctors to let me take my baby home, but they refused since my health was still at risk. Besides, my CS wound had not healed; blood and purse were still oozing.

One week after negotiating for my elusive discharge without success, I talked with a new doctor that had been assigned to me about my discharge from the hospital. Like the other doctors, he too blatantly refused, but I was persistent. Afterwards, he accepted my request on the condition that I sign the Discharge Against Medical Advice Form. I took a leap of faith and signed the form, and after a month-long stay in the hospital, I took my bundle of joy home.

I continued with the high blood pressure drugs while taking care of the baby, who was progressing well. Thanks to God, I did not develop any complications nor go back to the hospital with an emergency.

My family supported me throughout this trying period. My mum was literary sleeping outside the ICU waiting for me to wake up. She says that to date, she still hears in her head the beeping of the monitors in the ICU. My husband would cough lots of money to ensure I get all the expensive drugs I needed. God gave me a second chance to live my purpose.

Grown Zakariya

To the pregnant woman who has any pregnancy-related complication, please be alert to any changes in your body such as bleeding, swelling, blurred vision, and headache. Please always seek a second opinion. Above all, trust your instincts.

To that woman with a preterm baby in the NICU, always follow the doctors’ advice. Remember, NICU medical team has the expertise to take care of the babies. I know it is not easy at all! Pray and keep hope alive!

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