The unfathomable distance
Words by Lisa Spurgeon
The person I was back then to the person I was at that point was unrecognisable. I was devastated.
From the age of 19, after having a previous job at a Solicitors, I began working for a firm of Accountants. This is where I started to undertake my accounting qualification. Whilst doing this I worked within the Insolvency Department and this is how I found myself in the networking game. I loved it. Yes, I was nervous and slightly shy at first but this soon passed and I enjoyed meeting new people and representing the firm. We would go out for lunch, which naturally turned into an afternoon of drinking, which soon became days at the races and evenings at award dinners. It didn’t seem like work! However, as time went on, the work lifestyle I had taken on started to disrupt my home life. I would be out a couple of nights a week, not home until midnight or sometimes even later. After 10 years, I took the decision to leave working in the city behind and move on. I was ready to settle down and start thinking about the future and it wasn’t something I could sustain long term. I had to do this to protect my marriage. With my adjusted perspective I took a role working as Finance Director for a new business. This suited me completely, I could work remotely from home and not work the obligatory 9-5. Perfect. Not long after starting my new position, I found out I was pregnant with my first child. I remember thinking “What if I turn out to be a rubbish mummy?” I had never been a maternal individual and I was never the first person to go rushing up to a newborn baby for a cuddle. We were both over the moon, of course, but this was totally out of my comfort zone. I knew how to do my job, I knew how to run a household and manage money, but having a baby? I was frightened, but also excited. I was entering into the world of the unknown. I suddenly became very aware of what my life currently was at that point and understood that this was going to totally change. I was going to change, my husband and I as people would change. We had our daily routine and now we would be swapping this for a whole new one and taking on a huge responsibility. Very soon we would be swapping weekends at the pub to soft play areas, our sporty car for a family one. There was so much to think about. My pregnancy was tough. I had a severe pelvis condition called Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction, or ‘SPD’ for short. This is a condition that causes excessive movement of the pubic symphysis, due to the pregnancy hormone softening the pelvis and causing misalignment. The pain was excruciating. I could not do simple everyday things that I had always taken for granted, such as turning over in bed, getting in and out of the car and even walking. I battled on for as long as I could, but by the time I reached 30 weeks, it resulted in me being unable to walk without crutches. I had my son on 2 October 2016 by emergency C-section. This was very tough and had been a very traumatic experience for both my husband and I but we were so in love with our boy. Three days later, our world was turned upside down. I was rushed back to the hospital with what turned out to be Sepsis. Sepsis is a life threatening condition that arises when the body’s response to an infection causes injury to its own tissues and organs. In very serious cases, your body can shut down. I had never heard of this before and I didn’t even know what it was, or how serious it could be. There was a lot of speculation between the Doctors with regards to where the infection was in my body. I didn’t get answers straight away and in the meantime, I suffered two serious haemorrhages and had to have two blood transfusions. I was so weak, I couldn’t even stand up. My body had been pumped so with many fluids and antibiotics that my legs and feet had ballooned to the point where I couldn’t take my own weight. In the meantime, my little boy was admitted to the Children’s Ward with jaundice. My husband was lost. He would come to the hospital and didn’t know which way to turn. Did he go first to see his newborn son, or did he go and see his wife? Luckily, the staff would bring our son over to my bed so we could both sit and enjoy the time with him together. Fortunately, my son only stayed in a few days and was then discharged. Unfortunately, I was still in hospital.
That was it, I was going to die. I was going to leave my husband without a wife. My baby boy without a mummy. I had to be strong, I had to fight it.
Eventually, it was confirmed that I had retained products of conception. This is placental tissue that had remained in my uterus since delivery and it was infected. However, due to it being so soon since my C-Section, the Doctors would not remove the tissue in case it ruptured my internal stitches, with a worse case scenario of having to have a hysterectomy. I was assured that whatever was left would leave my body itself. I spent 5 weeks in the hospital. Rewind the clock 18 months prior to this and I was living the city-working life without a care in the world; all I had to worry about was getting myself home and waking up in time to go to work the next day! The person I was back then to the person I was at that point was unrecognisable. I was devastated. For days on end I lay in the hospital bed looking back and wondering what on earth had happened to me. I would stare at the clock, watching the hours go by each day, eating the food that family members had brought me. The one thing I found helped me was a mindfulness colouring book, it almost distracted my mind for a while and was quite relaxing. I had imagined the three of us returning home a couple of days later and getting straight into the routine of our new life and now, I was missing out on the first few weeks of my baby boy’s life. All the photos we were taking had my hospital bed in the background or a drip stand. I was absolutely broken, but I also felt guilty that my husband was doing all the night feeds alone but still coming to the hospital to see me everyday. To this day I still don’t know how he coped, but he had to. He put on a brave face for me, but he was terrified and distraught. I finally returned home with the hope that the nightmare was finally over and that we could all adapt to being a family of three. Our new life. It was not to be. Three weeks later, disaster struck again, but this time much worse. It’s all very hazy, I was confused, breathing rapidly and shivering so much that my entire body was shaking. I returned to the hospital for the second time, where it was confirmed that it was Sepsis. Again. I remember the staff at the hospital running around desperately trying to get canulars into me. I was given oxygen and transferred to Intensive Care. I don’t really remember much of this time, I just remember looking at one of the nurses and saying “please don’t let me die”. The distance between the person I was before and what was happening to me in that moment seemed so surreal. What had happened to me? That was it, I was going to die. I was going to leave my husband without a wife. My baby boy without a mummy. I had to be strong, I had to fight it. To my relief, it was agreed that I had to be taken down to theatre that evening to have the retained products removed. It was now at the point where it was life threatening. I signed the consent form which outlined all the risks. I didn’t care. I just wanted to be better, to feel like me again and to get home. If it meant I wouldn’t be able to have any more children then so be it. I remember coming round in recovery and seeing my husband smiling. “I love you” he said. The first thing I apparently said was “please can I have some toast and a cup of tea, my throat is so dry!”. A few hours later I felt a completely different person, it was amazing. I had to stay a couple more days for monitoring but was then able to go home. When I was discharged, a nurse said something to me that will stick in my mind forever: “you’re so lucky”. I remember thinking “lucky? How am I lucky?”, she then went on to say “because you’re walking out of this hospital as a person, not a statistic”. How very true this is. Almost one year on to the day I gave birth for the first time - the day after my son’s 1st birthday, I found out I was pregnant again. My first thoughts? “I can’t do this”. “How could I put myself through all that again?”. I felt like I was really pushing my luck. However, my second pregnancy wasn’t as difficult as the first, I was very careful with my pelvis and although I had the condition again, it was manageable. It came to light early on in my second pregnancy that I had antibodies in my blood, which had been caused by the blood transfusions the previous year. Whilst having antibodies in your blood isn’t harmful in itself, it can be harmful when you are pregnant to your unborn baby. I was closely monitored throughout the pregnancy and it was agreed that I would deliver early. It was also confirmed that our baby would spend some time in Special Care once born. There was a risk that she would be anemic and have severe jaundice. Our beautiful daughter was born on 30 May 2018. Everything was fine. I was fine. Our daughter was fine. This gave me a boost – I remember thinking “I can do this.” She spent a week in Special Care and I was able to stay with her. Whilst it wasn’t ideal, it was so far away from the situation we found ourselves in previously. Luckily, it turned out she didn’t have anemia, just slight jaundice. I was so thankful that the staff had been so vigilant. I’m sat writing this whilst my two children are playing together. Yes, my house used to be tidier, I had time to do my makeup every morning and I was able to go to the toilet alone! But you know what? I love my new life. It gives me a purpose every morning when I wake up, or should I say, get woken up! The distance between my life before becoming a mother and experiencing such a life threatening condition and now is massive, but in some ways, I’m glad I experienced it. It’s taught me that nothing should be taken for granted and I no longer worry about the little things that I used to worry about. As a young professional I gained so much experience and have been able to take that with me and implement this into my new role. I hadn’t even realised how much experience I had gained until one of my closest co-workers pointed it out to me! So that’s my story and the distance I have travelled. The distance from my professional working life, to life as a mummy. The distance from what I used to think was important, to what I know is important now. I still shudder when I hear about Sepsis, it brings back memories and takes me back to that time. But I also feel it is very important for everyone to know the signs, so awareness of this potentially life threatening condition is key. I know I will never forget. Every day is busy. Some days I feel I’m fighting a losing battle and some days I feel tired, fed up and incapable, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Life is good.
Lisa works as Finance Director for Oook Audio. She has previously worked in the Insolvency Team at a firm of Accountants, specialising in both corporate and personal insolvency. When she is not working, she is busy looking after her two wonderful children. Lisa enjoys spending time with her family and seeing friends. When she does manage to find time, she enjoys going out for a run, with the aim this year to get back to her pre-children fitness - she was quite the runner and used to regularly run 10K and half marathons. Lisa loves fitness and believes it really helps to relieve stress and anxiety.
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