As a college kid, blood donation was something that I was always aware of, but not something I really gave much attention to. My dad was always a blood donor. He donated every few months, and he was proud that he had donated the equivalent of the total blood for two people. I donated blood when I was in school, but it wasn’t something that I actively participated in.
Then, everything changed when I was pregnant with my first child, Caroline. I was diagnosed with placenta previa in my first trimester of pregnancy. Basically, my placenta was attached directly over my cervix, which is dangerous for both the mother and child. Because of the placenta previa, I was referred to Dr. Lynn Groome at LSU Health Shreveport, who is a maternal-fetal medicine specialist. I didn’t really understand the implications of placenta previa, but I thought it was neat that I received so many ultrasounds. Little did I know, placenta previa can cause growth restriction in fetuses because the placenta, when it is in the wrong location, does not supply the baby with enough blood to grow at a normal pace. It also carries a great bleeding risk. Any change in my cervix could cause me to have uncontrollable bleeding.
In my 26th week of pregnancy, Caroline had fallen to the bottom 3 percentile in weight for her size. I was having growth scans performed every 2 weeks, and my baby had not grown in 2 weeks. I was admitted that day to LSU Health Shreveport’s Maternal-Fetal ICU. Placenta previa prevented her from growing. It also caused other problems for me, including severe pre-eclampsia and HELLP Syndrome, which resulted in my liver and kidneys shutting down. My body was rejecting my pregnancy, and my doctors told me that they were trying to prolong my pregnancy as long as possible. I’ll never forget the way they explained it to me. The doctors told me that they would let me get down just to the point where they couldn’t get me back before they would deliver my baby.
That time came almost exactly 48 hours after I was admitted to the hospital. My placenta actually started separating from my uterus, which is called placenta abruption. In the middle of the night on Monday after I was admitted, I felt a rush of warm liquid. I thought perhaps my water broke. It was blood from the placenta abruption. I was on strict bed rest. I couldn’t move in the bed because my baby had to be connected to the fetal monitor at all times, so I only saw the sheets as the nurse was changing the bed. I was horrified! Blood was everywhere! My placenta abrupted again that night, and twice on Tuesday. I had lost so much blood that I had to have transfusions on Tuesday and Wednesday.
By Wednesday, the placenta separation was so severe that it was causing Caroline to go into fetal distress. Her heart rate plummeted. My doctors decided to deliver her on Wednesday, April 20, 2011. She was 14 weeks premature and weighed only 1lb, 6oz. She was 12.5 inches long. She, essentially, was the size of a 20oz soda bottle.
Little Caroline spent 84 days in the NICU at LSU Health Shreveport. At first, the doctors were not optimistic. We were told that she would not live 72 hours. She made it through, and ultimately she was discharged from the NICU on July 11, 2011. Along the way, she had 29 blood transfusions. Each time she had blood drawn for lab tests, she would need a transfusion afterward.
My doctors told me that no matter who I chose as my OBGYN, ultimately I would have been admitted to LSU Health because of the high risk associated with my pregnancy. Thankfully, as a Level 1 Trauma Center and academic research hospital, LSU had the capabilities to take care of rare cases like mine. LSU Health also had a Level 1 NICU, which can take care of babies born as sick and small as Caroline. I am very thankful for the doctors and staff at LSU Health Shreveport, both for saving my life and my daughter’s life.
I am also thankful to everyone who donated blood for Caroline and me. So many people heard about our story and donated blood for her. Since I was so sick, I could not donate blood to her, which was heart-wrenching as a mother. It is entirely because of the kindness of strangers that I have my daughter today. This is why I am such a champion of blood donation.