Every now and again a tornado enters your life, normally closely followed by a storm chaser. They come tearing in from the sidelines, turn your very life upside down, inside out and disappear off into the twilight just as suddenly as they had initially appeared. These tornados come with little prior warning, they wreak untold havoc and in the eye of the storm they lure you with a false sense of calm before ruthlessly destroying the few remaining possessions and hope that you initially had. The storm chaser swoons in quickly after, hoping to learn a few lessons, pick up the pieces and hopefully learn how to prevent the tornado from ever causing so much devastation the next time it hits. 2016 was the year of the tornado for us and the storm chaser that followed, forever changed our lives for the better.
At the end of 2015 I found out I was pregnant again. After our first confirmed pregnancy had come to a heartbreaking early end we were reasonably cautious with this one and kept as quiet as we could until we knew that all was well. And in the early days all was indeed well. Seeing that little heartbeat on the monitor, confirming that our nugget was healthy, happy and thriving from kicking the living daylights out of mom has to be one of the most precious moments of my life to date. Our gynae was very happy with nugget and my health. With every scan we relaxed a little more, felt more comfortable that we would see this through, both thrilled and terrified of what lay ahead of us: parenthood! Our 22 week scan showed C as a perfectly healthy foetus, slightly undersized, but nothing of concern, my blood pressure slightly elevated, but also put down to the stress of ‘the big scan’. Little did we know that day that I had already started developing early onset pre-eclampsia and would be hospitalized within the same week.
When I was admitted for the second time to hospital that same week for high blood pressure I was told that I would be staying until C was delivered, initially with no indication of when this would possibly be, I naively had visions of being in hospital for another 3 months. That first week in hospital remains a blur of fear and tears as every day my protein levels worsened and the lack of optimism in my gynaes face daily, strengthened my fears, until finally at the end of week one things became horrifically clear as to what the recommendation was: Termination. Clear and ugly scribbled on my chart, the only course of action that was being considered by my gynae was termination. There was no hope or chance in the gynaes eyes.
I tried my best to remain calm and positive while making firm, direct eye contact with my gynae at the end of the first week. I heard a slurry of words and kept looking for a smile, a ray of hope. I waited in vain to hear about the course of action that would miraculously ensure that my child would be born term and healthy. It never came. In it’s place was a shrug of the shoulders, and an acknowledgement that ‘things don’t look good’, ‘I don’t have much hope’, ‘your foetus is not viable and not a priority’. It was made abundantly clear that the perfect little foetus that a few short days ago was healthy, thriving and gave us such an amazing display of movement during the ultrasound was now suddenly expendable and meaningless. It cut me to the core. The gynae told me that I would be transfered onto another gynae for the next two weeks as there was a conference at Sun City that was going to be attended, followed by a week long golf holiday. I knew at that moment that there was no hope for my child, if a golf ball took priority over her life, then surely she didn’t have a chance at survival. Gynae mumbled something about maybe seeing me in two weeks but that there wasn’t much hope that I’d still be pregnant when we saw each other again and calmly walked out the room after handing over our sentence. I sat alone in my corner of the room and sobbed into my hands. How would I face my husband and tell him that our baby was going to die, where would I begin to apologise for failing both him and our baby, how was I going to live with the fact that my body was rejecting our beautiful girl before she even had a chance at living.
In the far corner of the room, behind a drawn curtain lay another patient. She’d had a little miracle girl herself not too long before I was admitted and she’d remained absolutely silent through our sentencing. She told me not to give up, that she could not believe what had just transpired and she begged me to hold on to hope. We cried together, she was confined to her bed from her emergency caesar, I was on strict bed rest, we both lay there and sobbed for my beautiful girl.
My gynae had promised to be there in the morning to introduce me to the replacement, whom my room mate had said would be our hope and ray of light. Gynae made a brief appearance before vanishing off to play golf, but never did introduce me to the replacement. The replacement turned out to be Doc O. The storm chaser who had arrived in town a few weeks before and was turning the world upside down, in all the right ways.
I swear Doc O breezed in there almost floating, she had an air of confidence and optimism that I desperately needed. She told me that my case was serious, but that this is what she specialised in, she hugged me and promised me that we would fight this fight together, that we would go for as long as it took to make sure that my baby had a fighting chance at survival without compromising my own life and health beyond reasonable measures. She cared, she had hope, she understood the importance of the life I carried in my womb. She breezed in with with hope and a game plan that we set about with almost immediately. My room mate was 101% correct, this was the attitude we desperately needed if we had any chance of going forward.
And so began the longest (at the time) 3 weeks of my life. 1-3 hourly blood pressure checks, blood withdrawals at the crack of dawn daily, rounds of steriod injections, buscopan injections, multitudes of blood pressure medications, doppler monitors and physical checks to check for liver, kidney or lung failures. Every morning and evening Doc O would be at my bedside with a smile, regardless of the news, but if it was bad she’d already come up with a new game plan to buy us a few more days to try get improvements and give C some more time to bake. Her optimism in spite of the reality of the situation kept us going, day by day, and towards the end, hour by hour.
Not once in her care did I feel alone or hopeless. My body eventually told us that it was time, we’d fought long and hard, but it was time for C to show us what strength she had and how determined she was to make a go at fighting to live. I was beyond terrified for so many reasons, but Doc O was there beside me, answering all questions honestly, explaining in as much detail as possible what would be happening over the next few hours and days and assuring me that we had done absolutely everything in our power and that C would make it.
During and following Charlottes delivery Doc O was there to answer any questions. She was so proud and amazed by Charlotte who voiced her arrival to the world with a tiny squeak when she was taken from my stomach, I’ll never forget the excitement and shock in her voice when she reacted to Charlottes first sound.
Original gynae swooped in at this point and demanded that all patients be returned to said gynae. So we respected the decision as our focus now was on Charlotte. A week later though I stumbled out of that office in absolute fresh agony and swore that I’d never again step foot in there or ever utter another word in that direction. I slowly made my way to Doc O and told her that from that day forward I would deal with nobody else.
As Charlotte continued to go from strength to strength in NICU I’d catch glances of Doc O through the window, she never interfered, but she was always up to speed with Charlottes progress, she had genuine passion and interest in my recovery and in Charlottes development. We’d chat in the corridors when we bumped into each other, she always wanted updates, she always showed compassion for Charlotte and I. There was never a single moment where I felt that I was a burdon or that she didn’t have a genuine interest in my or Charlottes recovery.
Doc O was our storm chaser. She picked up enough pieces of the storm to put together a strong enough structure to give us hope and a place to build from. And as with any storm chaser, her stay was short lived but the difference she made for so many of us here will never be forgotten. Sadly as with most storm chasers, she was enticed to the next city to chase new storms and to likely pick up the pieces for someone else.
Without our storm chaser I doubt that C or I would have made it. Without the correct support and supervision I do not believe my girl would be as strong and healthy as she is today, she has proven so many times just how truly unique she in her development, in spite of her alarmingly early birth and Doc O played the biggest roll in giving her the best possible chance at life.
How does one go about thanking your storm chaser though? How do you ever truly show your gratitude, not only for your healthy and perfect child, but for everything that led up to it. For the willingness to fight alongside you every step of the way, for acknowledging that the very thing that is killing you is what you are fighting to save, for giving you hope and belief when it was almost all lost. I have no clue, there are no words, there are no gifts. Maybe one day I’ll have the answer. But for now I count our blessings that in the wake of our storm, that our storm chaser was Doc O.