“If it had not been for the Lord on my side, tell me where would I be?”
It was March 15th. A day like any other day. Well, at the start of it at least.
Still experiencing the emotional high of my parents being safe and well after weeks of sustained health trials, I thought it would be a long while before we faced any seemingly insurmountable obstacles like that again.
I could not have been more wrong.
In the days leading up to my next extended stay in despairville, I’d been busy nesting. Even though I still had three months to go before my June due date, I’d felt an urgency to finish decorating the nursery and putting up all the finishing touches. I had even already finished packing my maternity hospital bag, which was sitting on the nursery room floor by the door.
A bag I’d intentionally left behind as I’d walked out of the door for my regularly scheduled check-up with my OB/GYN in the medical center.
A good friend had recommended this doctor to me. She herself had pregnancy complications. It’s not that I had expected to have the same experience, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to have someone highly recommended on my team. So, I hadn’t minded making the 40 minute drive from the suburbs to her office, which was adjacent to the hospital in which I’d be delivering.
I hadn’t had a great experience with this particular doctor, but I hadn’t had a terrible one either. She’d just been totally dismissive of my complaints up to that point. When I’d initially told her about the sharp pains I was experiencing in my lower left abdomen, she’d chalked it up to round ligament pain.
It was only upon further examination, that she’d discovered it wasn’t a ligament causing my symptoms but a pedunculated, fast-growing fibroid tumor.
I’d asked several times about the size and rate of growth of my tumors, worried that something worse could be going on. She never addressed my concerns. I had plenty of other things vying for my attention, so I didn’t dwell on it.
When I had shared the unprecedented stress I was under at work and dealing with my parents’ recent health challenges, those concerns too were casually tossed out and set aside.
The implicit message was clear. I wouldn’t be getting any additional support from her or her office to address my worries.
She’d been insistent about me getting vaccinated with a maternal H1N1 flu shot every time I walked into her office. I’d refused politely each time, until finally exasperated I’d asked, “This is something you’d STILL recommend I take even though I have an egg allergy?”
She appeared confused. “You have an egg allergy?”
Technically it wasn’t a true food allergy, but rather a food sensitivity. She clearly hadn’t remembered what I’d told her previously. I didn’t want to make that distinction as I made my case against getting the vaccine.
“Yes, I do. I told you that. It’s in my file”.
She flipped through my chart, and saw where I had listed known allergies. She never brought it up again.
Some time later, studies showed that particular shot was associated with an 8-fold increase in spontaneous abortion. I didn’t know that at the time. I’d just known intuitively that I personally should stay away from it.
It was one of many times that I’d had what I could only describe as a disturbance in my spirit about an important decision – a tuning of spiritual discernment. I’ve learned through the years to pay close attention whenever that happens and it’s a gift that has served me well in the subsequent years.
My husband and I had been grateful that I had a second doctor, a perinatal specialist, who was tracking and monitoring my progress along with my primary obstetrician.
Though my confidence in my OB/GYN had waned significantly, she would be the one God used to save my life that day. He would use the insights of my other doctor to save it again a day or so later.
My visit was routine. In total, it had lasted about 15 minutes. I’d given a urine sample, and had my blood pressure tested. We’d talked briefly about how I was feeling. I had already scheduled my follow up visit for two weeks, checked out, and was headed towards the exit when my doctor came running after me.
“Wait!” she exclaimed, almost breathless. “I need to retest you. It’ll only take a minute”.
To this day, I never got an explanation for what prompted her to chase me down that hallway. If she hadn’t stopped me from walking out her office door, I am confident that I would have died at home – alone.
God had other plans for me.
She’d tested my blood pressure again, and within the span of the 15 minutes that I’d been in her office, it had gone to dangerously high levels.
“I need you to go to the hospital right now”.
I became alarmed. I didn’t understand what was going on, but I was grateful I only had to walk across the street to get to the hospital.
I still felt totally fine, none the wiser of the physiological processes beginning to shut down my organs.
On my brisk walk over to the hospital, I’d started dialing Martin’s cell phone to leave him a voicemail. He’d left a few hours earlier for a business trip to Italy.
I would spend the rest of the day in the hospital being monitored and plied with high doses of magnesium to try to bring my blood pressure down. The nurse who spent the day assigned to me assured me not to worry. I was experiencing signs of preeclampsia, she’d said. It was treatable and I could probably go home in a few hours.
But a few hours came and went.
Not only was my blood pressure not responding to the magnesium, it was going in the opposite direction.
I wouldn’t be going home after all. Instead, I was going to be admitted to the hospital.
I called my sister to ask her to get to our house so that she could receive the furniture I had scheduled for delivery that afternoon. Then I called my team to let them know that I’d be taking the rest of the day off.
Anxiously staring at the automatic blood pressure readings every few minutes, I spent a sleepless night in the hospital wondering what the next day would bring.
By the next morning, I’d started to feel very unwell.
The rest of my memory is hazy, but I vaguely remember my two doctors conferring over how long to wait before scheduling an emergency c-section. I’d thought my high blood pressure was the most worrying condition that demanded my attention.
Unbeknownst to me, I wasn’t just experiencing preeclampsia.
My blood platelets were rapidly disappearing as well. An emergency c-section performed too late would cause me to hemorrhage to death.
They were weighing the risks of delivering my baby girl too early versus performing the c-section too late.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, my kidneys and liver were beginning to shut down. I had H.E.L.L.P. syndrome, a relatively rare, but life-threatening pregnancy complication.
I was told the only way to halt this process was to deliver Zoë. Within 24 hours, we’d learn that I would be an exception to the norm.
A nurse came into my hospital room to inject steroids into my abdomen to help develop Zoë’s underdeveloped lungs more rapidly and increase her survival rate.
A few hours later I’d meet with the neonatologist who for 60 minutes would painstakingly walk my sister Delicia and I through every risk factor that went along with delivering a baby at only 27 ½ weeks.
Brain damage. A hole in the heart. Blindness. Deafness.
Delicia captured our conversation in detail so that over the coming months we would know if and when every milestone was reached – or not.
Her notes are below.
I called Martin again. I told him he should make his way back home as soon as he landed in Italy, and come straight to the hospital.
We were about to have our baby girl three months ahead of schedule.
I prayed that Martin would make it back in time for his first child’s birth, which was scheduled for the following morning.
Delicia reached out to our church family to solicit their prayers as well.
I knew my situation was dire, but I had confidence that I’d be fine once Zoë was delivered.
Unfortunately, that simply wasn’t the case.
Pictured Below: The email Delicia sent to members of my church with an urgent prayer request
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: DALILA JONES STITZ
Founder and CEO, Health Insurrection LLC
Dalila is a native Houstonian and currently lives in Switzerand with her husband and two kids. She received her health coach training through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and Hallelujah Acres and teaches in-home bible studies and online courses.