Today’s Vasa Previa Success Story is from Karla. I love that Karla offered to share her story because it’s never easy to process the Vasa Previa experience, much less a missed diagnosis! It can be traumatic and life changing, and it takes a great bit of vulnerability to share the details. One thing that sets Karla’s story apart from the others is that she was never diagnosed with vasa previa while pregnant. Her diagnosis was MISSED! It wasn’t until the birth that it was discovered, and while the mortality rate of missed vasa previa is as high as 90%, her baby survived!
Karla, thank you for sharing your experience. Your case is truly a miracle considering the diagnosis was missed during the pregnancy. It is an honor to host your story on this blog!
If your pregnancy has been diagnosed with Vasa Previa and you’re looking for more success stories, you can find them all here: Vasa Previa Success Stories.
Vasa Previa Success Story: Karla’s Missed Diagnosis Miracle
My husband and I were married 22 years and had 7 pregnancies with 6 living children at the time of this story. Our first baby we lost early in the pregnancy. From that time we decided that beggars couldn’t be choosers. We wanted children and would take whatever the good Lord would give us. We practiced natural family planning, always aware that we could be blessed with another child if God saw fit.
We were 48 and 44 years old respectively when I found out I was pregnant. Our youngest, who has Down Syndrome, was almost 5 years old, so I was in denial that I could be pregnant. I thought I was in peri-menopause due to my cycles being irregular. I was still cycling every month, but sometimes my cycle was either longer or shorter than normal, heavier or lighter. But in March of 2015, my period was later than normal. I took 4 pregnancy tests and all but one were positive. I knew I wasn’t pregnant (denial) because I had no symptoms, but I called my doctors office and they had me come in for a blood test. It confirmed that I was indeed pregnant. I still had no symptoms like I had with my other pregnancies. They had me come in for a vaginal ultrasound and there was a heartbeat and a large subchorionic hemorrhage. The baby’s heartbeat was very slow so they had me go on vaginal rest and come back for a repeat vaginal ultrasound in another 2 weeks. Our baby was due mid November of 2015. Now the heartbeat was in the normal range and the subchorionic hemorrhage was getting smaller. I was still told to stay on vaginal rest until I saw my midwife at 12 weeks. I had a gut feeling that I was not going to be bringing our baby home. I didn’t share it with anyone. I had the same feeling that our older son had Down Syndrome and he did. Around 6 to 8 weeks along, I started having morning sickness and it was the worse case that I have ever had. I felt like I was carrying 10 babies!
Since I was at an advanced maternal age and we had a child with a chromosomal abnormality (Down Syndrome, which is called Trisomy 21) I met with the perinatologist again who screened me for various chromosomal abnormalities, such as trisomy 18, 19 and 21. Instead of an amniocentesis, they were able to collect the baby’s DNA through my blood sample. All tests came back normal. I was starting to feel better and I had accepted the fact that we were having another baby and I was getting excited. We were told we were having a baby girl. Our oldest was graduating from high school and our youngest was in an early childhood program. We were busy planning our daughters graduation party and getting ready for college. Life just kept on going on.
I had many visits with the perinatologist with multiple ultrasounds. Around the 30-week range, I was measuring small for gestational age. The perinatologist said my amniotic fluid was on the low side so I had to push fluids (which made no difference). The baby also had shallow respiration in-utero. This was found during a long ultrasound appointment. The doctor had me lay on my right side and the baby did a bit better. I was having ultrasounds almost weekly. During this time, the doctors never saw that I had vasa previa.
I had asked my midwife earlier if I could have an induction because my second baby’s labor was less than an hour, and since we had other kids at home we could make sure we had somebody home with the kids. We decided I would be induced at 39 weeks. Although now with the baby seeming to be okay (but having the low amniotic fluid) they decided I should be induced at 37 weeks. After another ultrasound, they finally settled that the induction was to be at 38 weeks. I was cautioned to go in if I noticed decreased baby activity and any vaginal bleeding. My midwife was going to be on vacation so my next OB visit was with one of the doctors. He was in agreement and we set the date for our baby to be born, November 5th, 2015.
We were scheduled to be at the hospital at 7 AM. I was 38 weeks along. Our oldest daughter was away at college 1 and 1/2 hours away and planned to come home after classes. She was excited to see her baby sister. Our 17-year-old son was going to come home early from school to get our 5-year-old off the bus at 12:30. We figured we would have our baby early afternoon and my husband would bring the kids to the hospital after dinner. No need for any additional help. All was going as planned. I did have meals ready in the freezer. The kids daily routine written down and all things ready in the event something went wrong (I’m a planner).
My nurse was great! She got me all settled in and hooked up to the monitors. I was already dilated to 3 cm. My husband left the room for bit and I quickly shared what I had felt earlier in the pregnancy. I told her that I didn’t think I would be bringing our baby home. My instinct told me that something was wrong.
I was set to have the baby without an epidural because with our last baby I had a reaction and got all itchy, so they gave me Benadryl and then I was so sleepy that I had a really hard time staying awake to enjoy our baby. The nurse said it would be easier on the baby if I had an epidural since my deliveries were so fast. She said having an epidural would be a good thing. The nurse looked in my chart and said that the anesthesiologist had given me a medication that could have caused that. She talked with the anesthesiologist on call and he said he could give me a different medication that wouldn’t cause the same symptoms. So, I changed my mind a got the epidural before they started the pitocin to induce contractions. The nurse put a Foley catheter in to keep my bladder empty to help the baby descend better. The doctor let the pitocin work for an hour then checked my cervix around 11:30 am. I was having regular contractions and I had dilated some more.
At this point, the doctor decided to break my bag of waters. Everything was going like clock work and nothing seemed any different than the other 4 inductions that I had with our previous children. The doctor asked for the amniotic hook, broke the amniotic sac and that is when I saw the look on his face. His jaw dropped, his eyes grew big as he watched the monitors. Blood was gushing out and our baby’s heart tones ceased. The nurse adjusted the doppler with no change. The doctor walked out and came back in and said I was going to have an emergency cesarean section. I wasn’t too alarmed, I used to work at this hospital as a surgical technician. I had been in cesarean deliveries many times and I had confidence in all the employees and doctors. I knew I was in good hands. I had a sense of peace come over me.
I was in the operating room by 11:37 and they put me to sleep instead of waiting to see if the epidural was working. Our daughter was delivered by 11:42 AM. My husband wasn’t allowed in the operating room with all the chaos. He sat outside the door and waited. At our hospital, we thankfully have a level 3 neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). I was told that the neonatologist and his team were waiting and had to do CPR 10 minutes before he got a heartbeat. She had an Apgar score of 0,0,0 which means no muscle tone, no color and no respirations. She was intubated right away to help her breathe and then they transfered her to the NICU to give her a blood transfusion. She started to have seizures, so they gave her Phenobarbital to control her seizures (which made her very sleepy). I was in the recovery room when my husband and neonatologist told me what all happened. I looked at my husband and told him to call our daughter and my sister, who lives only 40 minutes from the children’s hospital (we lived over 3 hours away). I had my husband request that our baby was baptized.
At that point, the neonatologist decided to send her to Children’s Hospital because they had a pediatric neurologist. They wanted to start cooling her body down to prevent any brain damage from the lack of oxygen. They cooled her to 92 degrees Fahrenheit for 72 hours. Our daughter and my sister stayed with our baby until my husband went down the next day. My mother came up to watch and take care of the other kids. I finally went down two days later after I could finally walk around easily. They diagnosed her with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). We were told it was too soon to know how she would be affected. She could have organ failure, brain damage or brain bleed . They hooked her up to EEG leads to monitor brain activity to see if she was still having seizures. She did have subclinical ones which means we couldn’t tell by looking at her but on the graph she did. They did an ultrasound on her brain to see if she had any bleeding, which she did not. They took blood samples to see if she had any organ failure which at first showed maybe kidney and or liver was affected. When they repeated the blood work things seemed to get better. They felt the blood transfusion was to blame but all was looking good. They wanted to do an MRI to see if there was any brain damage but wanted to wait to make sure there wasn’t any swelling. She was extubated (breathing tube removed) the next day. She was very sleepy due to the phenobarbital. After the cooling therapy was complete, it was a waiting game. She was acting normal other than being sleepy, and she didn’t have the strength to eat. She was being fed through a feeding tube that was inserted in her nose to her stomach.
My husband and I stayed at the Ronald McDonald House, which was next to the hospital in walking distance. I was pumping every 3 hours to get my milk to come in. They would feed her my expressed milk, and what she didn’t eat went into their freezer. One early morning one of the doctors called to tell us that she was having a crying spell in the night and her oxygen level would drop. She did this 3 times so they wanted a consult with an ear, nose and throat specialist. They looked down her throat and didn’t see anything alarming but diagnosed her with laryngo malacia. Nothing too serious as our little guy with Down Syndrome has that.
They would try to feed her with a bottle but she would tire out so the remainder was put through her feeding tube. We continued to push her but then I finally asked if I could just breastfeed her. She did well when she was awake. We finally got her to do full feeds breastfeeding. She was just about ready to go home. They did the MRI two days before she was discharged and it came back completely normal. Even though it looked normal, they said she still may have some deficits so we should have her evaluated by our county’s birth-to-three program. We decided to wait until she was 3 months to be evaluated.
Our daughter has had 2 seizures that we are aware of. Her medicine for seizures was just adjusted. As of today, she is 10 months old and she has no delays in her milestones!!! She is a little fire cracker. She is very strong willed which probably helped her fight in the beginning.
We have been blessed and we are so very thankful for her outcome. We are thankful to all the people that prayed for our baby and the quick thinking our doctors did that has helped our baby survive a missed case of vasa previa.
Karla – thank you again for sharing your story. I am so glad that it turned out okay in the end! If you are reading this and have a success story, please contact me and I’d love to share it on the blog!