'How could I give up on this baby?': Wisconsin woman risks her life to have her baby
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Heather Stainback said she always wanted to have a big family.
"I found out I was pregnant probably the day after we got pregnant," she said about learning about their fifth child.
She said she was about five and a half weeks into her pregnancy when she experienced bleeding.
"I had a big bleed and they basically, a week later and all the test results came back, told me everything was fine that I had a low lying placenta and just to be careful and it was normal to have a bleed," Stainback said.
It wasn't until her 20 week ultrasound, when she learned something might be seriously wrong.
"All of a sudden the tech’s face changed," she said.
She said she was rushed into another room to a doctor.
"She said if you don’t abort this child, either you or the baby could die, or you will die upon delivery," said Stainback.
She was sent to Froedert & the Medical College of Wisconsin for treatment. Heather had a condition called Placenta Percreta.
"Where the placenta grows through the uterus into another organ in the body," said Meredith Cruz, a Maternal Fetal Medicine Physician at Froedert & the Medical College of Wisconsin.
"In general, women that have prior scars on the uterus or prior c-sections are at increased risks for having that placenta grow into that abnormal or a rougher surface," she said.
Cruz says that causes abnormal vessels to start growing into the uterus that aren't usually there.
"Then at the time of delivery those vessels become broken or sheered and can cause a very large blood loss in a short period of time," said Cruz.
Cruz says for women with prior c-sections, it's important to get care early on in pregnancy.
"Get early an ultrasound just to know what’s going on with the placenta," said Cruz, "And make sure that they’re seeing a high risk specialist in addition to their regular obstetrician to make sure that they have a normal ultrasound with the placenta."
"I think it’s critical for women to know that their obstetric history is very, very important for their obstetric future meaning that as you plan future pregnancies with increasing number of c-sections behind you, that does increase the risk of these things happening," said Garrett Fitzgerald, a Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist at Froedert & the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Heather's case was a life-threatening situation.
"This case was so remarkable in that the blood vessels from the placenta were growing into numerous spaces that were abnormal," said Fitzgerald.
"The abnormal connection that she had between the placenta and the bladder was the most severe case I’ve ever seen," said Cruz.
Knowing that she could die, Heather carried on with her pregnancy.
"God’s never given up on me ever in my life, how could I give up on this baby?"
She wrote letters to her four other kids in the event that she might not make it.
"I knew that the pain that they felt later in life, if I died it was because they missed me not because they necessarily remembered me," she said.
And had tough conversations with her husband.
"I said don't ever be mad at the baby if I die," said Stainback.
On June 11, she went in for the surgery to deliver the baby, knowing she might not come home.
"I’m not scared to die, I know I’ll go to heaven. I was just scared because I wanted to live, scared because I just wanted to see how this, all of this and to meet my baby," she said.
Cruz said there were over 30 people in Stainback's room.
"Anesthesiologists, hematologist, trauma surgeons, neurologists, maternal fetal medicine," she said.
Stainback lost 25 liters of blood.
"They thought she could hemorrhage but as soon as they opened her up, she hemorrhaged," said Andrew Stainback.
"I lost pretty much my body’s blood, within a matter of moments," added Heather Stainback.
"Essentially she couldn’t even be closed that first day because the blood loss was so bad that we had to make sure she was stabilized so we could make sure we could close her abdomen fully," said Cruz.
Fitzgerald said Stainback had one procedure to remove the uterus and placenta, a second unplanned procedure for a blood clot, and a third procedure to close of all of her remaining blood vessels.
Stainback said their baby, Khloe Grace, also went without oxygen for about 45 seconds during the delivery.
"She does have a bruise on her brain from the hemorrhaging and loss of oxygen when she was born and so we will have to monitor that for awhile," said Stainback.
Stainback said it was like magic the first time she got to hold her baby.
"The second they gave me the baby I didn’t feel one ounce of pain," said Stainback.
Despite health complications, Stainback and eventually Khloe were able to come home.
"She’s got these cheeks, and this little double chin," said Stainback as she described her.
Alive and with her husband and her five kids, including her new baby girl.
Stainback says she plans to start a non-profit to help women who have long hospital stays.
If you'd like to donate to help the Stainback's with medical costs, click here.