Chris ran to the bathroom and then yelled for me. I handed baby Ruby to Mandy and rushed in, not knowing what to expect. My daughter was standing in the shower, eyes wide with fear, blood running down her legs. Chris grabbed a bath towel and held it to her stomach. “We have to lay her down right away, her incision has opened.”
I grabbed some towels as Chris backed Jeanette up to their bed. He told her to sit, and we lowered her slowly, to the mattress.
Chris took charge, calling 911 for an ambulance, while I talked to Jeanette, who was amazingly calm, “Do you feel like you’re going to faint?”
As I lifted her head to put a towel under her wet hair, I asked, “Are you in any pain?”
Chris came back into the bedroom to tell us he was going to wait out front for the ambulance. I could hear the baby crying, and went to check on her. Mandy had put her little sister in her infant rocker, following her father outside, asking “Dad, what’s wrong with Mom?”
Leslee, the six year old, not understanding the events that were unfolding, stood crying, “Is Mommy going to be OK? Can I go see her?”
That’s all I heard as I picked up Ruby, and tried to comfort her, trying to get her to take the pacifier, which she kept refusing. I felt that I needed to keep an eye on my daughter, but I hated to stand there by her with the baby screaming. It was as if Ruby knew something dreadful had happened to her mother - or more likely, she was picking up the tension in my body as I held her tightly in my arms.
At that moment, I felt so helpless. I wanted to hold my daughter in my arms and tell her everything would be all right. My baby was afraid, trying to be brave, and the mantra, how could this happen, kept running through my mind.
The ambulance arrived in less than fifteen minutes, but it seemed an eternity. Two large male paramedics came into the room, observing my daughter laying naked under two towels, strategically covering her. I watched as one of them lifted the towel covering my daughter’s incision, and we both saw the lower intestine protruding. She looked like she had been gutted. Disbelief showed on his face, and I felt faint with the full realization of what had happened.
I followed the stretcher as the paramedics went down the hallway and out the garage door. Ruby was still screaming. Mandy and Leslee were in the garage, faces white, as their father rushed back to the house to tell me to put the baby in her car carrier, “I’m going to take her with me and follow the ambulance to the hospital. Jeanette is insisting on nursing Ruby. I’ll bring Ruby back to stay with you. Girls, go in the house, and mind your grandmother.”
Two little girls, completely traumatized, watched the ambulance taking their mother away. They refused to go back in the house until the blood was all gone. I told them I’d take care of it right away. Leslee stepped forward to follow me into the house, saying she wanted to see. “No, sweetheart, you don’t want to see. Go back with Mandy.”
Once inside, I was relieved to see that there was actually very little blood in the bathroom to clean up. I called Dave and asked him to come over right away – forget about cleaning the pool. When he arrived I met him, out of earshot of the girls, and told him what had happened. I needed his help in calming the girls, who were very upset. We asked the girls if they’d like to say a prayer for their mother. Thanks to AWANAS they were eager to do this and took our hands as we knelt in prayer.
Chris called with Jeanette’s room number and asked Dave to come pick up Ruby from the hospital. Jeanette had insisted on feeding her daughter even as hospital personnel started working on stabilizing her for another surgery.
When Dave returned with Ruby, he told me he was embarrassed for his daughter, laying exposed, with no clothes on, nursing the baby while different hospital personnel came through with equipment and supplies. They told him the surgery to close Jeanette’s incision would have to wait until six hours had passed, based on when she had last eaten.
Dave returned with infant formula and we were set for a day or two - he handed me three boxes of formula bottles with 18 sterilized nipples. What a relief – some of my panic started to recede. I had been worrying about what I was going to feed the baby.I had pulled out baby books and looked under supplemental feedings, but nothing seemed right.
Chris called around 7:00 pm to tell us Jeanette was out of surgery and in a room on the birthing floor across from the nurse’s station. She was doing fine and would like Dave to bring Ruby to her the next morning. Recovery was starting all over for my daughter, except this time it was going to be harder.
Neighbors watched the girls until their bedtime. Dave went to our house and packed a bag with a change of clothing, medicines, etc. We had a long night ahead of us. Every two hours, like clockwork, Ruby woke up and demanded to be fed. We had a thirty year flashback to our parenting days when Dave and I were raising our children – I fed and Dave had diaper duty.
Early on in the pregnancy, Jeanette wanted to have a natural birth, and her doctor worked with her to achieve that - but, it wasn’t to be. The baby was not dropping into the birth canal – she was in a horizontal breach position. At 38 weeks, Jeanette’s blood pressure became elevated, and the doctor told them to set a date for a c-section delivery.
Baby Ruby was beautiful, healthy, alert, and took right to her mother’s breast – the best baby ever - eat, poop, and sleep. The family all took turns holding Ruby while pictures were taken of the happy parents, grandparents, and sisters. We marveled and commented on how long her fingers were as they curled around our index finger. We wondered which member of the family Ruby took after with all that reddish-blond hair and her eyes so blue …joy was present in the hospital room.
Both sets of grandparents clicked into high gear - making a calendar to plan meals, watch the older children during the day and nights while mom recovered from the c-section. Chris, a husband and father extraordinaire, did not leave his wife’s side while she was in the hospital, unless someone was with her. He helped with the baby (who stayed in the room with the parents), diapering, burping, and dressing her in cute little onesies. He suffered the aches and pains from trying to sleep in a chair in the hospital room for three nights, and he ate only when a visitor stayed with Jeanette, so he could run down to the cafeteria. Sometimes Jeanette couldn’t eat everything on her plate and she shared what food she received.
Jeanette and Ruby came home at the end of three days. On the fifth day, I was recruited to stay with my daughter while her husband took the two older girls to a birthday party at the ice skating rink from 11-3. Chris told me that Jeanette was not feeling very good that morning (probably postpartum blues), and he would like me to come over and stay with her. He said he would leave the front door unlocked for me.
Mother and baby were sleeping when I arrived, so I quietly did some house cleaning until baby Ruby started to fuss, I went in and picked her up. Jeanette was awake, and I asked my daughter about her visit to the doctor’s office that morning.
Jeanette told me the doctor wasn’t in, but his nurse said everything looked good, and proceeded to remove the fourteen staples from her c-section. I asked about the five days and commented, “I don’t believe your father had his staples removed that soon after his bypass surgery.” This seemed early to me, but I shook my head, and asked instead if she had discussed with the nurse her nightmares and her depression.
She nodded and said, “The nurse assured me these were all natural feelings and feeling blue was probably due to sleep deprivation”.
“Tell me about your nightmares.”
“It has to do with my incision, it just doesn’t feel right. Remember I had a C-section with Leslee. My stomach is still big and I can’t see the incision. Chris said it looks fine - it’s just me, I’m feeling blue. I am sleep deprived.”
Jeanette had lunch about 1:30 pm as we watched some home improvement shows. Chris called to check in to see if we needed anything, and said they’d be heading home soon. Jeanette decided to take a shower before her husband returned with the girls.
I was still holding the baby when ten year old Mandy came in the house all excited from the birthday party she had attended. She asked for her mom, and I told her Jeanette was taking a shower. Off Mandy ran, and wasn’t gone long, before she ran back screaming for her father.
Our daughter was the talk of the hospital staff upon her return to the emergency room. Her doctor was out of town, but fortunately the doctor who delivered Jeanette’s first daughter was on call. She assured Jeanette her stitches would not come out. It was hospital policy that Jeanette should recover in the surgery section, but the doctor made sure that Jeanette was moved back to the birthing section, so her infant could be with her in the room, while she started her recovery all over.
During the additional four days Jeanette was in the hospital, she suffered from a lot of anxiety – would she get an infection from the towel that had covered her incision, would the medications affect Ruby if she nursed, would Ruby nurse after having formula, and what if she went home and her stitches dissolved again.
Taking a shower brought on a panic attack – Jeanette’s self-confidence was shaken. She talked to Mandy and Leslee over the phone, but she didn’t want them to come to the hospital and see her.
Jeanette’s primary doctor called her hospital room on his way back from L.A. He told her he had never heard of this happening to anyone in his 18 years of delivering babies - it is very rare. He said he was so sorry, and was looking into the possible failure of the dissolvable sutures, and said he had the hospital staff searching for the box they came in. Complimentary products are often given to hospital attendees at medical conventions.
I relieved Chris one morning when he took Ruby to the pediatrician. I was worried about Jeanette, but tried not to show it. She was receiving excellent care. Being as positive as I could, I read her some articles from the local newspaper, talked about the girls, and relayed all the good wishes from her neighbors and friends. I told Jeanette that in a few years, when she met with her girl friends, and they started to talk about their pregnancy and delivery, she would be able to top any story they told. As I looked at my daughter, I thought to myself, she is so strong, my little girl – when did that happen?
I’m happy to say that Jeanette is back home and slowly recovering. Someone is always with her since she is still very emotional, and easily becomes distressed. Her only responsibility is the baby, but Mandy and Leslee need her attention as well - their eagerness to help, sometimes adds more stress, to a mother coping with her runaway emotions. The grandparents continued to take turns fixing dinner and took the girls during part of each day so Jeanette could take naps and rest.
You would think nothing more could happen – we did - until we received a phone call after midnight Sunday morning. Their air conditioner had stopped working, and Jeanette, in her hormonal state, could not sleep, and she felt it was too warm for the baby. The daytime temperatures were in the 110 range, and evenings were more than warm. Dave drove over and brought her and the baby to our house where we put them in our bed for the next two days. We had our little girl home, with her little girl, and everything seemed right with the world – we hoped our nurturing would help.
They decided on a new unit and it was installed on Tuesday morning and Mom and baby went back home. My daughter was relieved because grandma, moi, had held Ruby so much that now she fussed until she was picked up and held – ah, a mother’s job is never done.
In retrospect, I'm very angry and I have too many unanswered questions:
o How could this happen?
o What are the checks and balances in a hospital for c-sections?
o Was it physician, hospital, or product failure?
o Did the sutures dissolve prematurely?
o What will be the long-range effect on my daughter and grand-daughters? Will they have future medical or emotional problems?
o Or, was this mishap on a wider scale? An act of terrorism –international intrigue – were the sutures made in China?
To get answers, friends and family are advising us to see an attorney. Only a lawsuit may give us the answers we need. If it was the sutures, the product should be recalled, so no one else would have this nightmare happen to them or their loved ones.