There is no pill that can make cardiomyopathy and eclampsia go away, and Kathleen Rice’s body was in a threatening inflammatory state. Her health rapidly declined with swelling of her internal organs and brain, plus fluid around her heart, lungs and kidneys. She was at risk of seizures, respiratory failure and even death.
Just a few hours earlier, she had delivered a healthy baby girl named Annie. Annie’s 6-year-old brother, Tyson, was looking forward to his mother’s return home. So was Kathleen’s husband, Ryan. A lot was at stake for the young family. The team at Parkwest Medical Center did what it does best. Every medical professional called on to help Kathleen joined forces to fight for her life.
“It was remarkable teamwork,” says Lee Collins, MD, an anesthesiologist who was part of that team. “Everybody came together and got her through it. It was a wonderful example of team care and all hands-on deck.”
Dr. Collins believes God was at work in Kathleen’s life and care for a recovery that might even be described as miraculous. They successfully pulled back the conditions that threatened Kathleen’s health so the “Great Physician” had a clear path to perform healing.
‘I knew I was dying’
Dr. Collins, who specializes in anesthesia treatments for heart patients, first met Kathleen when she was taken to the critical care unit at Parkwest. After giving birth, she had begun to experience some symptoms she knew weren’t a normal part of the childbirth experience.
“I started to become extremely weak and incoherent. I began seeing flashes of light and was short of breath,” Kathleen says. “I felt like I was suffocating, and it turns out I was.” She was rushed to a CT scan that showed her lungs were full of fluid, and her kidneys and heart were failing. “I knew that I was dying,” Kathleen says.
The course of treatment included heart medication, blood pressure medication and a diuretic to curb edema, all administered through an IV. A device called a BiPap, which is a type of ventilator, was used to support Kathleen’s lungs as she fought to breathe. These were just a few of the measures taken in critical moments as her body lay in crisis.
“Her blood pressure was extremely high, she was at risk for seizures and she was profoundly weak,” Dr. Collins says. “Her heart was under extreme strain from her hypertension, and she was at risk for going into respiratory failure and shock.” While cherished friends, extended family, concerned coworkers and a caring community rallied around Kathleen, Dr. Collins kept her husband, Ryan, informed while the hospital chaplain offered spiritual and emotional support. “Together, we just helped educate him on what was going on, and then prayed with him and reassured him, and we let him know everything that we were doing to try to help save his wife,” Dr. Collins says.
Persistent Care and Answered Prayers
Then the combined efforts of the medical team and divine providence started to become evident. Kathleen began to recover, and fear gave way to joy. Four days later, she was moved to the hospital’s cardiology unit and held her new baby for the first time. Soon she was able to go home, and the family was finally reunited for good. “The Childbirth Center at Parkwest was phenomenal,” Kathleen says. “They worked as a team with the other departments, were quick to respond when I was declining quickly and truly saved my life. I would not be here without them.”
But Dr. Collins passes the credit to a higher authority. He says God was in Kathleen’s corner, and he was just glad to be part of the grand design. “I really felt like we were seeing God’s work, and He provided us the ability to be able to take good care of her in a very bad situation, so I think we were all blessed,” Dr. Collins says. “They’re such a beautiful family, and I felt very honored to get to participate in her care.”
The Best Care for Parents and Newborns
With nearly 2,000 babies born each year in the Childbirth Center at Parkwest Medical Center, moms and moms-to-be can rest assured they’re going to get great care. For example, mothers are able to experience labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum all in one room for a seamless experience focused on comfort as well as quality care.
“All of our nurses are trained to take care of every stage of a mom who comes to us,” says Nicole Benner, RN, nurse manager. “They’re trained for labor and delivery as well as postpartum and newborn care.”
Some of the training happens in a class setting and new nurses are mentored for a valuable perspective of life experience. Even the nurses’ schedules are also structured with the best interest of the patients in mind. “You have a nurse who is there when you have your baby, and she’ll come back and take care of you on the following day,” Benner says. “They build a connection, and they develop a bond.”
Convenant Health provided information for this article.