SIDNEY, OHIO — May 3, 2013, is a day Tyler and Alexis Brown, of Sidney, Ohio, will remember for the rest of their lives.
It’s the day their first child, Dawson, was born and the day Alexis began a battle for her life. And as they celebrate Mother’s Day on Sunday, they both know how close they came to a different ending to their happily-ever-after story.
“My pregnancy was normal through the first 30 weeks,” said Alexis. “Then I developed gestational diabetes and had high blood pressure.”
She saw all four ob-gyns at Wilson Hospital and made six or seven trips to the hospital as her blood pressure and other systems continued to be unsteady.
“The bottom number of my blood pressure would be 110,” she said. “They’d run tests every time and there was no preeclamsia.” A normal reading for blood pressure is 80.
Then at week 37, the preeclampsia was present. The decision was made to induce labor.
“I was in labor for 24 hours,” said Alexis. During the labor, they lost the baby’s heartbeat but were able to find it again.
During that Thursday night, Alexis began pushing the baby out. Around midnight, the doctor determined Dawson was stuck and an emergency Cesarean section was performed. Dawson was born healthy and weighed 8 pounds.
He was welcomed by Tyler’s mom, Karen Brown; his grandma, Frances Spencer; Alexis’s mom, Shari Francis; her dad, John Roe; and her sister, Heather. After seeing the baby, the family members were sent home so Tyler, Alexis and Dawson could have bonding time.
“They gave me the baby, but after three minutes, I was so tired, I told Tyler, ‘I just can’t hold him,’” said Alexis.
She put her hand under her blanket and and brought it out covered with blood from her fingertips to her elbow. Tyler ran to the nurses station for help.
“When I came back in, she was as white as a sheet of paper,” said Tyler. “It was crazy; it was the best moment of our lives and five minutes later it was the worst moment. It finally hit me how serious it was when I was holding Dawson and was standing in the middle of the hallway and the doctors were all running around me. She looked like she was dead.”
“I was in and out of consciousness,” said Alexis. “They were sitting on top of me trying to keep me awake. Tyler was also grabbing my arm.”
The nurses began pushing blood into Alexis’s body. At the same time, the doctor was pulling blood clots out of her.
“They filled the bed pan with blood clots six or seven times,” said Tyler.
The doctor who delivered Dawson was on her way to Troy when she got the call about Alexis. With her vehicle running on fumes, she turned around going 100 mph on the interstate to get back to Sidney. There was no gas left in her tank when she pulled into the hospital’s parking lot.
Alexis was transferred to the ICU at Wilson.
“Tyler was giving me water through a sponge, since I’d had nothing (for two days),” said Alexis.
“Her lips were so dry,” he said. “And she was so out of it. I had a sponge to shovel the water in. I couldn’t get it in quick enough.”
A CAT scan and a laparotomy were performed to locate the bleeding. The doctors told Alexis’s family that they didn’t know what was going on.
“They had put 36 units of blood into me,” said Alexis. “There were no more (blood) resources in the county.”
The doctors decided to transfer Alexis to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, and CareFlight was called in. Alexis was prepared for the flight: her eyes were taped shut and she was enclosed in a black bag that made her look like she was in a cocoon.
“They untapped my eyes in the emergency room and Tyler, my mom and dad and sister kissed me goodbye,” she said. Family members jumped into cars to make the drive to Dayton.
“When the pilot got there, he wouldn’t let my mom ride in the helicopter,” said Alexis. “So she sprinted out of the hospital to the parking lot to catch my sister to ride with her. My grandparents heard the CareFlight go over their house and they knew I was on it.”
During the helicopter trip, medical personnel weren’t able to find her blood pressure.
“They had to find it on my thigh,” she said. “The nurse on board told the pilot to land the helicopter in five minutes or they were going to lose me. He was a combat pilot and was able to do a combat maneuver to land it.”
A team of five ob-gyns were waiting on the landing pad. They gave Alexis’s family one choice to save her life: experimental surgery.
“My mom had to sign the papers because Tyler and I weren’t married yet,” said Alexis. “They made the decision together.” And Alexis went into surgery.
“They put a small incision in me and put foam throughout my body to stop the leaks,” said Alexis. “They put sandbags on top of me to hold the foam firm.”
“We were in the waiting room,” said Tyler. “She was just a number on the screen. The numbers kept changing for the patients, showing them in surgery and out of surgery. Then the doctor came through the door and said everything went well.”
When she came out of surgery, her first three visitors were Tyler, her mom and her sister, but Alexis didn’t know they were there. She was in a drug-induced coma. The monitors ensured that everything that was supposed to be beating was. She was swollen up to three times her normal size and was monitored for 40 hours.
“They started to bring me out of the coma but I got aggressive,” said Alexis, “so they put me back into a coma.”
Then Wilson Memorial called and said Dawson was ready to go home, and Tyler was the only person who could sign him out.
“I woke up alone,” said Alexis. “There were all these wires on me. I asked ‘Where’s my baby? Where’s Tyler?’”
Her family told her to smile so they could take her picture to let Tyler know she was OK.
Tyler had reached Troy when he received the photo of Alexis, awake and smiling.
Alexis was in the ICU for three days. She was then transferred to another ICU, which was for the maternity ward. That’s where she was reunited with baby Dawson.
“I couldn’t walk, and I was on oxygen,” Alexis said. “My blood pressure was still unstable. I was taking vitamins to help me heal. I was really out of it. I was not happy if my mom wasn’t there. I’d get to hold Dawson for a few minutes and then I’d just look at him.”
Alexis was then transferred to a third ICU, where she received less care and had to do more things for herself. Cuffs were on her leg to make sure no more blood clots formed. The nurses would have to unlock the cuffs so she could get out of bed and walk.
“I was told I would have to walk to get out of the hospital. I walked the whole nurses’ floor and then took a shower on my own,” she said. “I wanted to go home so bad. The nurses told me they couldn’t believe how well I was doing.”
A team of eight doctors would visit Alexis twice a day to review her progress. They would stand in a horseshoe around her bed and “talk over my head,” she said. The nurses would then explain what the doctors were talking about after they left.
At last came the day Alexis was waiting for, the day to go home. It had been a week since baby Dawson was born.
“I had no clothes,” said Alexis, “so I wore what Tyler wore the night before. (At home), I sat all the time. I had to do my mothering from a chair. Dawson is flawless. He’s a very happy, very calm baby. I didn’t miss a beat with him and we bonded real nicely.” Two weeks out of the hospital, she was able to ride a bike with Tyler.
“I had a checkup last week,” Alexis said. “The doctor said my body has recovered completely. We can have more kids — as many as we want. The chances of this happening again are very slim.”
When they do decide to have another baby, her pregnancy will be monitored by a doctor at Miami Valley who had treated a case just like Alexis’s in Chicago.
“He told me, ‘Don’t let this scare you. Don’t let it define you. God has shined down on you,’” she said. “I think I was on every prayer chain there was. I’m very grateful for that.”
The couple plans on having many more babies. They believe God is with them. What happened to Alexis, said Tyler, was “just a freak accident.”
“It was a perfect storm of high blood pressure, gestational diabetes and preeclampsia which caused it,” said Alexis. She was diagnosed with disseminated intravascular coagulation, which means her body lost all its clotting factors.
The near tragedy has changed the way they look at their lives together.
“I’m at a stay-at-home mom,” Alexis said. “I want to spend every minute with Dawson that I can.” Tyler said he used to get upset over stuff which today doesn’t seem as important as it used to.
“We don’t say things we don’t mean,” said Alexis. “We are a lot closer as a family — with my family and with Tyler’s family.”
The couple also has decided to start a family tradition to thank everyone who donated blood, which helped save Alexis’s life.
“We are going to donate blood each year at this time,” Alexis said.
Melanie Speicher works for Civitas Media as news editor at the Sidney Daily News in Sidney, Ohio.