As I watched medical professionals tend my daughter, who was lying in 3 liters of blood, machines beeping alarmingly, trying to navigate around tubes, iv lines, and a ventilator as they prepped her to take her into emergency surgery for the 4th time; the tired, stupid loop of “this cannot be happening” played over and over on the same track in my mind. My beautiful, vivacious, outgoing, funny, stubborn 25 year old daughter was dying in front of my eyes.
Twelve hours earlier, my daughter had had to have an emergency C-section due to fetal distress and complications from eclampsia. Baby Jameson arrived 3 weeks early, a beacon of joy and hope in a situation that was rapidly spiraling down into anguish and tragedy.
After rushing her into surgery twice after the initial C-section in an attempt to stop the bleeding, during which time she had two MTPS- Massive Transfusion Protocols and a hysterectomy; the doctors informed us that she had developed a blood condition called DIC (disseminated intravascular coagulation) and would be transferred to the main hospital’s ICU. She was in critical condition, on a ventilator, and the drs. faces told us everything we were afraid to put into words.
The leading causes of maternal death are preeclampisa, post-partum hemorrhaging, and embolism…and my daughter had all three.
I gazed at the sweet perfect face that had just entered the world and tried not to imagine him and his older brother growing up without their mother. The impossible mix of joy and utter heartbreak unfolding before us. About 5 hours later, as I was finishing up taking care of the baby and getting ready to head over to the ICU, my phone rang…it was my husband with the horrific news that Brienne had started massively hemorrhaging again and I needed to get to the hospital immediately.
The only thing I remember about that drive is chanting, “no, no, no, no, no, no Brienne, it doesn’t go this way.” As I flew down the hall of the ICU and saw the wall of people in front of my daughter’s bed and looking to my left seeing my husband, son-in-law, and a chaplain in a small room praying; I let out a primal, agonized “nooooooo”…a mother’s denial of what was happening to her child.
Another MTP was called and the surgeon came in to tell us that she had had to be resuscitated and they were taking her into surgery. “I will find the bleeding and I will fix it”, he said.
They took her down to the OR at 7:36 am and at 8:06 am we heard over the intercom, “MTP-hybrid OR”…yet another massive transfusion protocol (the 4th one). It’s hard to imagine what the human body can go through and still survive. Periodic updates from those desperately trying to save her life informed us that the blood was going out as fast as they were putting it in and the situation was tenuous at best.
Five hours, 170 units of blood, over 100 pounds of blood products, and 14 vascular coils later, the surgeons came out to tell us that they had finally stopped the bleeding.
The road ahead was long, but she had made it through seemingly impossible odds to survive. To put this in perspective, a typical transfusion is 3–4 units of blood and 1 unit of blood can be used to save as many as 3 lives. To say we witnessed a miracle is not overstating it.
I could ruminate for days on the lessons I have learned through this experience, but here are the most important ones:
Giving is never meant to be a two-way street. As human beings we are driven to reciprocity…a mutual exchange of things. But true giving doesn’t work like that. So many people gave to us during this time, with no expectation other than to show us how loved our family is. From the steady stream of people who crowded into the blood bank that day after the call was put out on social media (she even had her own hashtag #BrieStrong), to the prayers, kind thoughts, candles lit, texts of support, food that was brought, friends who made us leave the hospital for a few hours to take us to dinner, our neighbor who we found mowing our yard as we came home to shower and change…the giving was immense.
Accepting the giving. Being gracious and allowing others to do for you is also their way of coping with what’s going on. Accept help, especially when you don’t ask for it and receive it in the spirit that it is given, freely and with great love.
You must trust. As someone who is a ‘control-enthusiast, trusting others doesn’t come naturally to me. Feeling helpless is foreign and hard. The trust we had to invest in strangers who had what we most value…our child’s life, in their hands, is humbling.
I’m a personal development junkie, so the practice of gratitude is something I’m very familiar with. However, when life gives you an experience like this, it can’t help but shift your perspective on being grateful. You have a deeper appreciation level and lens through which you view everything.
James Taylor said it best “Shower the people you love with love…show them the way that you feel”. Tell them you love them. Give them your love.
Giving unreservedly is the ultimate expression of love, joy, faith, and hope. Giving not only lifts up others, but lifts you as well. As Tony Robbins says, “the secret to living is giving.” Give and both you and the recipient receive a priceless gift.
Originally published at medium.com