My baby’s amniotic fluid leaked inside me causing an ‘explosion in my chest’ that nearly killed me
A MUM was left fighting for her life after her baby’s amniotic fluid leaked into her bloodstream and caused an “explosion” of pain in her chest.
Jamie Miller, 39, from Illinois, USA, suffered an amniotic fluid embolism (AFE) – a very rare birth complication that can be fatal for both mum and baby.
It led to an extremely traumatic birth in which Jamie would not stop bleeding, while her baby, Michael, was rushed to ICU.
The mum-of-three wasn’t able to meet Michael for a week – an emotional moment that was captured on video by her family.
“I know it is pretty much a miracle that both of us survived with likely no physical effects,” Jamie said.
“I am very aware of how rare the event was and then how rare it is that we both are here to talk about it.”
As a nurse who had previously worked on the delivery unit where she gave birth, Jamie had learned about the dangers of AFE.
But she had never seen it – and never expected to experience it herself – when she became pregnant with her husband, Tim, 38.
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On 25 September 2021, Jamie went into hospital as planned and everything was going smoothly for birth.
But the situation suddenly changed.
Jamie said: “I asked the nurse to assist me with repositioning and upon turning on my left side, I felt an explosion in my chest.
“Sort of like every cell in my body went to one place in the middle of my chest. It was a pain I had never experienced before.
“My nurse was still in the room and I yelled as I grasped my chest. I then immediately started vomiting blood.
“She pulled the emergency light and I closed my eyes and drifted in and out of consciousness. I remember knowing something was very wrong, I also felt I couldn't do anything.”
Medics quickly realised it was an AFE, which is when the mum suffers an allergic reaction to amniotic fluid entering the bloodstream – a normal part of childbirth.
The condition is not well understood and thought to affect one in 40,000 to 54,000 births in the US and Europe.
Most often an AFE involves two very serious and life-threatening complications; heart and lung failure and severe bleeding, charities say.
Only between 20 and 60 per cent of those who get AFE survive.
Jamie said: “Even though I knew what was happening, and I knew what an AFE was, I still wasn't scared or in pain. I felt very calm.
“I knew I didn't want to be awake anymore and I said ‘just put me to sleep’.
“That's the last thing I said and the last thing I remember. I woke up a few hours later with a tube in my throat in the ICU. I was intubated, uncomfortable and very confused.”
Once Jamie was asleep, doctors were able to carry out an emergency C-section.
Michael was born weighing 7lb 15oz and wasn’t breathing.
Medics had to resuscitate him and, after successfully stabilising him, transferred him to a nearby children’s hospital.
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At the same time, Jamie suffered severe bleeding, causing blood clots to form throughout the body, blocking small blood vessels.
Jamie said: “I had lost the ability to clot so they needed to get me closed up and apply pressure to the wound with sandbags and a pressure dressing.
“Then they had to get my uterus to stop bleeding. Bleeding from the uterus is normal after the placenta is delivered but my body had no way to stop the bleeding from that area and a bakri balloon was placed inside the uterus to stop the bleeding.
“They continued to work on me by transfusing blood and blood products to replace what I was losing.
“In total I received over 65 blood products over the course of my stay. Most of it was during the first few hours of birth.
“I was transferred to the ICU where I continued to bleed and they continued to give me blood and clotting factors.
“I was told I had emptied out the hospital's supplies of blood products and the doctors worked to have others sent from nearby hospitals.”
Doctors expected Jamie to remain unconscious for some time but amazingly, she woke up later that night.
As her family were able to visit her in ICU, Jamie recalls: “I couldn't speak (I was still intubated) but I was able to squeeze hands to let them know I was okay.
“Everyone was crying when they saw me, so even though I felt that I was alright, I could tell I had given them all a scare.
I know it is pretty much a miracle that both of us survived with likely no physical effects
“I remember dozing off and waking several times and forgetting what had happened so throughout the night I asked the nurses what had happened. At times, I still thought I was pregnant.”
With Jamie recovering and Michael in another hospital, it was seven long days before she got to meet her baby as he was well enough to be discharged.
She said: “I felt very overwhelmed when I saw him. I was anxious leading up to the time I met him. I worried he wouldn't know who I was. I didn't feel healthy enough to take care of him.
“I worried I had caused him harm but as soon as I saw him and he was placed in my arms, it was like nothing had happened to either of us.
“I was so in love and he was just as cute and sweet as could be.”
Amazingly, three days later, Jamie was also well enough to go home to be reunited with her husband and their 14-year-old son.
Welcoming a new baby was particularly special for Jamie and Tim after losing their daughter three and a half years ago.
Jamie said: “Our family has been through a lot.
“My daughter was diagnosed with Stage IV neuroblastoma at the age of six. She died 11 months later from complications related to her treatment.
“Anyone who has a child after losing one knows that the emotions are very complicated. You miss them in ways you didn't know existed.”
Since Michael's birth three months ago, both mum and baby have recovered well.
Jamie said: “By the time they let me go home, I was so ready. I wanted to be with my family and get to normal.
“Now, we are doing amazing.”
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