Hannah’s Hand Saved Her Life

Without warning she got up, mumbled something indiscernible under her breath and left the room without so much as turning on the lights. She had been stoic throughout the process. The absolute opposite of the nurse who usually took our sonograms I figured this nurse needed to use the restroom. Nothing to fret. I checked the clock and allowed myself to doze as I lay in the dimly lit room.

The sonogram nurse returned to the dark room about 15-minutes later with a short woman in tow. They turned on the light, viewed the pictures and exchanged murmurs. Then the short lady turned to me,
“Ms. Ortiz. My name is Doctor…we need to deliver your daughter today.”
I immediately protested, “What? No. She’s only 32 weeks; it’s too early. No!”
“You don’t understand,” the Doctor said, “if we don’t take your daughter today– like right now– she’s not going to make it.”
“What! Why?”

The Doctor scrolled through the pictures and began to explain. My heart raced. I felt the blood drain from my face almost as quickly as the heat rushed back into it. Then I paled again. Flushed. Repeat. My hands quivered as cold sweat gloved them. The placenta was pumping blood into our little Hannah but, inexplicably, it was sucking the blood back out before a complete circulation throughout Hannah’s body was made. Her pulse rate was erratic and literally off the register.

“Ms. Ortiz, you need to get to the hospital right now.”
“I have to pick up my husband. He’s at home watching our daughter. He doesn’t have the car seat.”
“No. You need to go straight to the hospital.”
“I can’t. I don’t have any gas in my car. I need to gas up, and that’s right down the street from our house, so I can just swing by and pick…”
“Ms. Ortiz, I will not allow you to leave this office until you promise me you are going straight to– Nevermind. I’m calling for an ambulance transfer. Lay on your left side.”
“But I need my husband…”

My mind raced. As I left for my appointment that morning with the Specialist who had been monitoring Hannah’s hand once a month since her 20-week-gestation appointment, believing it to be clubbed, (the Specialist who noticed a “concerning” drop in Hannah’s rate of growth at our last appointment and insisted we return the following week, but we weren’t able to because my husbands schedule didn’t permit the unexpected appointment so we pushed it until the following Tuesday, this day) I had asked my husband if he wanted the car seat, just in case, “No, it won’t take long,” he said with a smile. He offered for me to take his truck since my gas light was on, “I’ll just fill it on the way back,” I refused. I should have trusted our instincts. I should have insisted on leaving the car seat. Or taken his truck. I didn’t. Now I was lying on my left side in the Doctor’s office waiting for an ambulance transfer to the hospital to deliver our in distress and very premature second daughter without my husband.

I called him. I told him what happened. I apologized for not leaving the car seat. He said he was coming. I told him to drive carefully. To buckle our 23-month-old into the backseat and to drive slow, but get here fast. I called my Mom. I called my friends to see if anyone could watch our daughter while we were in delivery. He came. He and our first born were safe. They were with me. The paramedics came. They strapped me to a gurney, still on my left side. I told them I could walk– I was fine, it was my baby inside me that needed help. They were kind, and they weren’t giving me any options. Away we went for my first ride in an ambulance. En route I called my niece, the NYC Doctor. She helps me calm. Then she informs me I’d be set up for a c-section.

“C-section?!” My calm vanished, “Why?!”

She explained it’s general procedure in similar instances. Why hadn’t anyone told me? I did not want a c-section. Our first daughter came out after 45-minutes of active labor, and she was two weeks past due. This tiny baby, two months early, should glide out no problem. I don’t need a c-section.

On my left side at the hospital I was prepped for the surgery.
“When did you last eat?” the kind nurse who was prepping me asked.
“I ate right before my appointment. They wanted our baby active, so I had breakfast right before I left.”

The c-section was scheduled for 7pm. I told her my reasoning for not wanting a c-section. She listened then informed me a natural delivery would put too much stress on our baby: she might not survive. While she explained, my husband was on the phone with our good friends who were going to get our first born around 5pm. Then an alarm went off.
Nurses rushed into our room. Hannah’s heart stopped beating.

The kind nurse apologized for the pain coming, there wasn’t time to numb me, and shoved a catheter in me. Hannah’s heart started back up.

“That was scary. But we’re not taking any chances,” the kind nurse said, “as soon as your doctor arrives, we’re going in.”

I looked at my husband and daughter who had been in the room with me, watching from a few feet away as the fast-working nurses engulfed me. Someone came in and said my doctor was there. I said good bye to my family and was wheeled into the operating room. My husband held our 23-month-old. I was alone again.

In the OR I was moved from gurney to table and placed on my right side to receive the epidural. I looked at the new nurse and told him I needed to be on my left side. He told me not to worry, it would only take a minute. I looked for the kind nurse. She was still there! I insisted to her, in front of the new nurse, I needed to be on my left side. “She’s right,” the kind nurse vindicated me. I was rolled onto my left side, my knees were brought to my chest and– ALARM! Hannah’s heart stopped again!

“There’s no time,” someone called out and I was put on my back. A mask went over my face as I felt the cold disinfectant rubbed below my navel.

“Please let me sleep before they cut. Lord, please save our baby…”

I woke up groggy and in pain. I couldn’t speak clearly. My tongue felt swollen in my mouth. My vision was blurred. Anesthesia never sits well with me.

I was told Hannah was okay. I tried to ask about her hand: it wasn’t clubbed after all. Hannah had an amniotic band wrapped around her four fingers. I was shown how to work the morphine flow. I hit the button… My husband and our first born came to see me. I hit the button… Another nurse checked in on me. I hit the button. It beeped back at me. I hit it again, it beeped again. And again. I had yet to reach my time for the next morphine flow. When the nurse returned she checked my chart and noted to another nurse that I pressed it multiple times within a few minutes. It must have gotten stuck under the pillow, they decided. They began to wheel me out of the recovery room and offered to take me to see Hannah. I nodded.

She was alive. She was beautiful. She was alive. Tiny Hannah had tubes and registers everywhere, but she was alive. If Hannah’s 20-week-gestation scan had been completely normal we would have never seen the Specialist. My next OB appointment was scheduled for that Thursday, just two days later. If Hannah’s hand had been normal, it would have been too late. Hannah wouldn’t have made it to my next regular appointment. Hannah was alive because her hand was different. Hannah’s beautiful hand saved her life! And I got to hold her! One of the nurses offered to take a picture with her phone and send it to me since I was certainly not prepared. Here is the first picture of our miracle baby…