Vanessa Tay was bleeding so profusely from placenta praevia, she was warned she might not survive labour…

“I nearly bled to death in a public toilet!”

“At 20 weeks, I was officially diagnosed with placenta praevia, and major placenta praevia four weeks later. It wasn’t spotting by then but gushes of blood. When a woman bleeds from the twentieth week of pregnancy, it can be fatal for both mother and baby.

As I had to visit the hospital frequently, I felt really weak and exhausted all the time. Explaining that mine was a severe, life-threatening case of placenta praevia, my obstetrician suggested that I quit my job as I needed complete bed rest to save my pregnancy. I did everything in bed — when I needed to visit the toilet, I carried an alarm with me or had someone accompany me, in case I fainted or started bleeding.

Initially scared to see a pool of blood staining my bed, my daughters Joy and Jaz soon took it in their stride. They even joined me in my room on their return from school daily — their presence helped me keep my mind away from my perilous condition. I was scared and depressed, but my friends and family bolstered my spirits, bringing me food and tonics, keeping me in their prayers and offering to donate their blood. Even though my husband, John, had to travel often for work, he was a pillar of strength.

"My parents and sister took care of Joy and Jaz when I was unable to. Every check-up visit to the obstetrician was a heart-thumping experience and a blessing when my obstetrician announced that my baby boy was doing fine.

“Because I was at risk of dying every time I had a bad bleeding episode, I kept being wheeled into the delivery suite and became a familiar face to the staff. Every day was a battle. My obstetrician wanted a decision from us — I could deliver the baby early as the pregnancy was taking a toll on my health, or risk my life if I continued with the pregnancy. Since a premature baby would need to be in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), it was a clear-cut decision — I could not risk my baby’s life. I told my obstetrician, ‘We’ll fight on!’.

“Though he said it was relatively safe to deliver on the 32nd week, I wanted to hang in there as every additional day meant reducing my baby’s risk of possible future health complications. At 35 weeks, we registered for a C-section the following week. After completing some paperwork at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, we decided to walk over to Paragon for lunch. When I needed to go to the washroom and John reminded me to bring my phone and alarm, I assured him I’d be out in a jiffy.

“But all hell broke loose while I was in the toilet — I started bleeding the moment I locked the cubicle door. So much blood was gushing out of me that the floor of the cubicle was flooded within seconds — it was like a scene from a horror movie! My knees buckled, but I struggled to open the door before collapsing at the wash basin.

“When I called out to the two other women in the toilet for help, both screamed and turned ashen when they saw blood flowing out of the cubicle. On asking one to call my husband in, she ran out but returned screaming hysterically that she did not know what my husband looked like.

“ I struggled out of the toilet and located John, who turned pale with fright. Since we could not wait for an ambulance and the hospital was opposite, I told John that we should walk there slowly. I bled all the way, which invited shrieks and horrified looks from the shoppers, but I was too weak and shaken to care.

“At the hospital entrance, staff rushed out with a wheelchair. Before being wheeled away, I grabbed John’s hand — worried that it was the last time I would ever do so — and cried, ‘Please take care of the girls…’.

“Before administering the anaesthesia, my obstetrician reminded me that the operation was extremely high risk and either or both of us might not survive it. I told him to do whatever it took to save my son. Before drifting off, I still remember chanting, ‘Jae, stay strong and safe. Mummy will see you later.’

“I woke up several hours later to cheers from the doctors and nurses. Their words — ‘Both of you survived! It is a miracle! Your boy is safe and healthy…’ — were like music to my ears. Uncontrollable tears rolled down my cheeks. When I was wheeled into the NICU and saw my little fighter for the first time the following day, I was filled with gratitude.

“When I check in on Jae, now 4 , every night, I still give thanks. My son and I survived a very challenging pregnancy, so I encourage all women who are dealing with difficult pregnancies not to lose heart and to stay calm and positive. Every day is a victory and a blessing.”

Vanessa Tay, 40, lives in Bishan with her husband John, 44, son Jae, 4, and daughters, Jaz, 9, and Joy, 12.

This story was first published in the January 2016 issue of Mother & Baby Singapore.

Photo: INimage

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