dallin July 27th, 2009
I’m going to tell you the story of our last week. We didn’t tell many people about it as it was going on, because we didn’t want people to worry (there was never anything to worry about). So don’t feel like we don’t like you just because you didn’t know that all of this stuff was going on – not many people knew at all! To tell the story properly though, I’m going to have to go back nearly three weeks, when it really started.
On Saturday July 4th Kathryn’s heart woke her up at about 6:00am. It was beating very strongly, very quickly and had a very erratic beating pattern. It was pretty odd. But she felt fine (just a bit freaked out) and we’d both heard that funny heart beats and other heart oddities are quite common in pregnancy. So we weren’t overly worried about it. And I was tired, so I went back to sleep. Kathryn stayed up for a bit, and looked up some information on the internet.
By the time I had to leave at about 8:00, her heart was still going about the same. I gave her a blessing before I left, and she tried to go back to sleep. By the time she got up for work (it was her last day!) at about 9:00, she felt fine, and as far as she could tell, her heart was beating normally. We planned to page Amy, our midwife, sometime during the week to let her know and check that everything was ok, but we both forgot about it.
Fast forward to this last Monday morning. At about 4:00, Kathryn woke up hungry. I think she got some food, and came back to bed just before 5:00, and went back to sleep. Then at 6:00 her heart woke her up again. At first it was beating very hard and fast, and then after a few minutes it switched to the irregular beat, similar to the last time. Again, we weren’t especially worried, but we decided to call the hospital, just in case. They were also not worried, but recommended we come in and get it checked out, just in case. Both of us fully expecting to be home within 2 or 3 hours, we didn’t shower or have breakfast, we just went straight in to the Women’s and Children’s. It was 6:30 when we parked the car.
They did an ECG and kept her heart rate and the baby’s heart rate and movements monitored. The baby was very happy, and Kathryn felt fine, she just had a very odd heart beat. She was beating faster than the baby, which is very odd indeed (Baby’s heart rate is about 150bpm. Kathryn was about 180 when we first got there). The doctor came and took some blood, and we just sat in the room, with the instruments beeping. Every so often we had to reset the alarm that would go off, because her heart-rate was too fast. They wanted to keep her monitored until the heart rate returned to normal.
This is going to be a bit long, so click the continue link to get the rest!
At about 8:30 I went to move the car, because we had parked in a two hour spot (expecting that to be long enough). When I came back, I walked straight past our room. When I got to the nurses station, I realised I’d gone to far, and went back, and found our room empty, except for Kathryn’s bag under the chair. Oh no! I went and found the midwife who had been assisting (Kathryn is part of the Midwifery Group Practice at the WCH, and they like to have a midwife present whenever she is in the hospital), and she said that Kathryn is still fine, but they had moved her into the Resus room, where there were better facilities to monitor her heart rate.
Well, it’s a good thing she had already said that she was fine, because I walked in to see her with an oxygen mask on her face and about 6 doctors and nurses huddled around her. They were just reconnecting the cables, and the oxygen was just a precaution – she could breathe just fine through the whole thing. It just looked a bit scary, though!
Not long after I came in, there was talk of two things – administering a drug to slow the heart rate, and a transfer to Flinders Medical Centre, where they have a proper cardiac unit, as well as maternity/birthing unit. They would be able to monitor her more effectively, and have a cardiologist look at her. Eventually they did administer the drug (Digoxin), and shortly thereafter transferred her to Flinders in an ambulance. Because we were completely unprepared for any of this, I went home quickly and grabbed a few things (food, clothes, entertainment) before going down to Flinders. I was disappointed to not go in the ambulance, but not having the car would have been a pain too. The Midwife from WCH went with her, so she wasn’t totally alone. I went and collected Kathryn’s bag, which was still in the first room. The midwife said to leave it, the nurses would lock it away securely, but I wasn’t taking any chances. And I’m glad I didn’t – who knows when we’d have gotten it back!
When I got down to Flinders, she was still in the emergency department. I’d never been in an emergency department before, and it was an eye-opener! There were people lying on beds in just about every space they had available – corridors, corners, next to walls. Kathryn was fortunately in a private curtained off area (to call it a room would be embellishment) with barely enough room to stand next to the bed. As soon as there was a space free, she was moved into a proper room (well, almost) still on the emergency department.
At this point I should mention how fantastic all the doctors and nurses were through the whole thing, at WCH, Flinders Emergency, and also once we finally got to the Cardiac Ward at Flinders. They were all very lovely, and, despite not being worried about the odd heart beat, wanted to get to the cause of it, in case there was some other hidden danger.
So, a Cardiologist came to see us after a while. He asked the same question that every other doctor had (and everyone did in the future, too), and said he couldn’t see any reason for it to happen. He said that it’s possible her heart had a defect, but if it did, then this probably would have manifested itself earlier. He also said it was possible there was a clot in the lungs, but he was very sure that she didn’t. He thought she would probably stay in this odd heart rhythm until the baby was born, and expected she’d have it in any further pregnancies. She got some more Digoxin, and another couple of drugs – one to thin the blood, just in case there was a clot, and also to keep the blood pressure under control. It hadn’t ever been a problem, and never was.
About 1:00pm the heart rate and rhythm returned to normal. It was quite noticeable to both of us when it happened. It was a long time before any of the doctors or nurses even came in and said anything about it, which was a bit frustrating because she felt fine and we just wanted to go home. And she was connected to a heart monitor which they could see the results of on the screens in the doctors stations, so I’m sure someone would have seen it. Else why bother monitoring? They did come in and were very pleased that it had just stopped. I’m not convinced the drugs had much to do with it – it was such a sudden and obvious change, where they’d said the drugs would take effect slowly, and were more to just slow the heart rate than to put it back in its proper rhythm. But, they wanted to scan her heart, just to be sure it didn’t have any defects, and talked about doing a scan of the lungs, to check for a clot. The cardiologist didn’t want to do that since he was so sure there wasn’t a clot, but said his boss (the head cardiologist) wanted to, to be sure.
We were admitted to the Cardiology ward that evening about 4:30. All of this time Kathryn had been constantly monitored with cables all over her, and with a drip in her arm. At some stage they turned the drip off, but left the needle in her arm, and she was still connected to the monitor. This was of course slightly frustrating for Kathryn as she felt completely fine and healthy but couldn’t move from her bed because she had this monitor on. I went home after Kathryn had settled on the ward, just to get a couple of things from home and had dinner at Mum and Dad’s before going back to the hospital and staying there until about 9:30.
Tuesday morning began with a very small hope that Kathryn would be coming home so I got to the hospital about 11:00 Tuesday morning and Kathryn had just got back from having an Echo cardiogram (an ultra sound on the heart) to check for any physical defects or abnormalities. When she was in there the sonographer told her that everything looked fine and after she was back on the ward the cardiologists came and said the test was clear and that now they had to try and figure out if there was a clot in the lungs. The best way to figure out if there is a clot in the lungs is to do a CT scan of the chest, with a contrast dye to high light the blood vessels. The problem with this is that there are risks associated with this scan during pregnancy so the doctors were a bit reluctant to do this scan even though it’s the only way to know for sure whether there is or isn’t a clot….. So, they decided instead to do an ultra sound of the legs instead / first as if there were no clots in the legs there is even a smaller chance of a clot in the lungs. Tuesday afternoon that was done, and it came back clear as well so we (especially Kathryn) was kind of hoping that this meant she could go home but she was not so lucky. Instead the cardiologists came and said that they had been speaking to the respiratory doctors and they would like them to see me and be involved as they have more experience with clots in the lungs and it would assist us in being able to make a better decision about where to go from there.
By this stage 2 cardiologists had said to us that they had no reasons to think she had a clot, but wanted to be checked out by the respiratory doctor first. It was now about 4:30 Tuesday afternoon and we were expecting to see the respiratory doctor that afternoon or first thing the next morning. Well, we saw the respiratory doctor the next day but not until about 3:30-4:00 so basically we spent 24 hours sitting around in hospital waiting to see this doctor. I had been expecting that, since the cardiologists wanted the respiratory doctors’ opinions, that there was a good chance they would say ‘No need to scan’. But, they were of exactly the same opinion as the cardiologists – ‘We don’t think you have a clot, we have no reason to believe that you have a clot, but unless we do a scan, the question will always be there’. I don’t know why they bothered to have the respiratory doctors see us – it changed nothing and wasted day.
Anyway, the respiratory doctor (and later that afternoon, a second respiratory doctor) then went through the scan and talked about the risks to Kathryn and the baby, they were minimal and we decided it would be good to have a clear answer as to whether there was a clot so we would go ahead with the scan. On Wednesday on Obstetrician had also come to check on the baby (I think they did every day), but said she couldn’t find its head, and thought it may have turned transverse (bad position). So they sent us off for an ultra sound of the baby, which was kind of nice. Button (the baby) is still growing well, and was still head down.
The next day we waited, and waited to have them come and take Kathryn for the scan, and finally that afternoon (Thursday afternoon now, almost another 24 hours after we last saw the doctor) they came back and went through the risks of the scan again and then a little while later they took her off to have the scan done. Thankfully the rest of the stay in hospital was over very quickly after that… The respiratory doctor came again at about 4:30 and said the scan was all clear and they were happy for us to go home! We waited a bit longer, as we had a couple of extra questions for the cardiologists and obstetricians, so we got home at around 7:00.
So, Kathryn was in hospital for 4 days, all because she was healthy. I guess if they had found a heart abnormality, maybe she’d have been in longer. And if she hadn’t been pregnant, they’d have done the chest/lung scan much more quickly as there would have been much fewer risks involved. It just seems ridiculous to me, though, that we took up this bed in the ward for 4 days, when it could have been used by someone who was actually sick. And what’s funny – an old guy who had had a heart attack and then triple bypass surgery, who was in the same room, arrived on the ward later, and left earlier than Kathryn! He had been in ICU for a day or two, but that was crazy. I won’t start on the other people who were in the room…
Friday was, thankfully, a relatively normal day! Good thing, too, because Saturday we were back at the WCH all day for ante-natal class. We went to see some friends after that, and didn’t get home until almost 9:00pm. Sunday was ‘Soup Sunday’ and I had promised to bring a pot of soup. I’d forgotten about it while Kathryn was at the shops on Friday, so I had to get my parents to go and get a pumpkin and some sweet potatoes for me, and leave them at home, before they headed off for the weekend (they had to speak in church at Robinvale). So I was up until about 11:00 finishing up the soup.
So now you know why I thought that Friday was Monday.