I knew 100% I was going to die when I gave birth. When I say I knew, I mean, I really knew.
My name is Stephanie Arnold and when I was pregnant with our child I started having strange, but detailed premonitions, I would die giving birth to our son. Now, this wasn’t my first time at the rodeo. I had a baby before, and the only complication was she was too big and after 14 hours of labor, I needed a C-Section.
At my 20-week ultrasound, I was diagnosed with a placenta previa (where your placenta is unusually low in your uterus). Even though everyone told me not to be frightened, I was. This wasn’t the fear of the unknown. On the contrary, this was the fear of knowing something bad was about to happen.
I started researching and discovered that this condition “could cause hemorrhage and lead to maternal and infant fatalities”. This was what was going to happen. The baby would survive. I would not. I was sure of it.
I called every doctor, nurse and friend. I told them all what would happen. My doctors did tests. At one point, I met with the head of gynecological oncology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital (one of the top hospitals in the U.S.) and told him, “You are the best when it comes to surgeries on the reproductive organs in high risk situation. You will be giving me a hysterectomy when I deliver this child.” He looked at me like I was crazy, but ordered an MRI to calm my fears. My husband was embarrassed to even be taking up the time of this incredible surgeon because he was busy saving other women’s lives. As I quietly thought: “What about mine?”
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All of my tests came back negative but that did not stop me posting on Facebook and writing “goodbye letters.” Everyone thought I was losing it. I didn’t care what anyone thought, I was running out of time to save my life.
My daughter, Adina was 15 months and my stepdaughter, Valentina, was eight at the time. I have a husband I desperately love. I needed more moments. I wanted to enjoy those moments, but I couldn’t ignore the ticking time bomb I had become. I was acutely aware I had two more months to make memories. Was I just driving myself crazy?
My gynecologist, Dr. Julie Levitt, saw how none of these tests helped calm me down and suggested I have a consultation with anesthesia. I spoke with Dr. Grace Lim. She gave me her usual speech, but it did not help. Instead, I told her almost out of breath, as I felt my heart pounding so hard inside of my chest: “I know all of this… but what happens if my placenta previa, turns into an accreta, I hemorrhage, need a hysterectomy, you need to put me under general and I die on the operating table. What happens then?”
(Again, cue the crazy pregnant woman - or so I thought she was thinking).
Then D-DAY arrived. Delivery day, also known as ‘the day I died’.
I was scheduled to have a delivery at 37 weeks due to the previa, but as ‘luck’ would have it, I started to bleed at 36 weeks to the day and got myself to the hospital. Jonathan got on a plane from New York. He would miss the delivery. I was petrified.
I was being wheeled into the room that would give life to my son and take mine. The last thing I remember, they delivered a happy, healthy baby boy and seconds later… I died.
I experienced an amniotic fluid embolism, a 1 in 40,000 risk where amniotic cells get into the mother’s bloodstream and, if you happen to be allergic to it, you go into somewhat of an anaphylactic shock. In most cases, it kills the mother. I was clinically dead (asystolic - no blood pressure or heartbeat) for 37 seconds. They got me back up using a crash cart that “happened” to be in the room and then I bled out. The normal human body is comprised of 20 units of blood. I was given 60 units of my rare O Negative blood. What’s ever rarer, is they had it ready. I found out later, someone actually listened to me.
Lim told me something didn’t sit right and her own intuition pushed her to flag my file, incorporating extra blood and a crash cart in the operating room during delivery. She had a gut feeling and I am alive today because of it.
But it wasn’t over. Several hours later, unable to stop the hemorrhaging, the head of gynecological oncology returned to the hospital to perform an emergency hysterectomy in order to stop the bleeding with finality. The pathology on the uterus showed an accreta (when blood vessels and other parts of the placenta grow too deeply into the uterine wall) had started to form, but went undetected on the MRI.
All of my premonitions had come true. This was too much for me to handle.
After a heart attack, kidney failure, blood transfusions and a six day medically-induced coma, I woke up. Everyone called me a miracle. I was in a daze and the only thing I wanted, was an answer.
I sought out another specialist. This time a regression therapist. Regression therapy uses hypnotherapy to take you back to the trauma, hopefully alleviating the pain when you can see it as an observer. I wasn’t too optimistic, but if there was a way to find out, I was doing it. I videotaped my therapy.
In my head I was able to see where the doctors were standing, what they were doing, what happened after I flat-lined and was intubated. I was able to see what was going on down the hall, what people were wearing, what my daughter was doing in the labor delivery room, spirits I knew and ones I did not. You could see me on the tape thrash and cry and seize and so much more.
My husband, even though he wanted answers, couldn’t handle how graphic and painful the video was to watch. He then said “How do you know if any of this is true? You could have seen this on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.” Fair point. I went into full action. I have witnesses.
I took the tapes to my doctors who were present on that fateful day. With tears in their eyes, they confirmed for me it was 100% accurate, leaving me, my husband and my doctors forever changed.
I have always been a spiritual person, but this has ignited a fire in my soul unlike anything I’ve ever felt. It is like seeing the curtain pulled back on Oz and you can now see. And I continue to see. As Arthur Conan Doyle’s character famously said, “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”
I will advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves, I will continue to lecture in front of clinicians, medical institutions and universities to enlighten those who have the power to listen with their intuition and further understand, through documented examples, there is something else going on medical science cannot explain.
For you reading this, listen to that sixth sense of yours. It is real. Very real. If you sense something, say something. It might mean the difference between life and death.
Stephanie Arnold’s book 37 Seconds is out now. You can find about more on her website.
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