Today is a special day for Recordia Kennedy. Her son, David, is celebrating his first birthday. It’s an important milestone and one she knows she’s lucky to experience. That’s because the 41-year-old St. Louis resident almost died during David’s birth from a rare obstetric emergency known as amniotic fluid embolism (AFE), or anaphylactoid syndrome of pregnancy.
Kennedy’s first three deliveries in 1991, 1994 and 1996 were as uneventful as birth can be in terms of her own health.
“And I’ve always been a healthy person,” says Kennedy.
But her fourth delivery was anything but typical. Though she has asthma, Kennedy seemed healthy on Feb. 26, 2012, according to her bedside nurse that day. Her delivery was progressing normally until she reached stage two of labor, and then things started to deteriorate. She told her nurse, “I feel like I can’t breathe,” coughed for about 10 seconds, and then became unresponsive.
Two minutes after reaching Kennedy’s bedside, a maternal-fetal medicine physician delivered her baby boy. Meanwhile, the acute care, obstetric nursing and anesthesia teams worked together for about 45 minutes, each playing a vital role in bringing Kennedy back to life.
Kennedy was in a coma for three days and stayed in the hospital for a few weeks after David’s birth.
“I have no recollection of anything that happened,” says Kennedy. “But I know it was really a traumatic episode. Everyone on the team was great, and they treated me and my kids like family.”
AFE can be caused when amniotic fluid, fetal cells, hair or other substances enter the mother’s bloodstream and cause her heart and lungs to fail. Physicians aren’t sure exactly what triggered the condition in Kennedy’s case, but say she’s fortunate to be okay.
“Very few patients in the history of Barnes-Jewish have experienced an AFE,” says Juliana Verticchio, MD, one of the resident physicians who cared for Kennedy during the event. “What is truly remarkable is that she survived and is neurologically intact with no major side effects.”
Kennedy says she’s grateful for the quick response and persistence of the Barnes-Jewish medical team.
Their responsiveness and team work gave her a healthy baby boy and the time to care for him and watch him grow.
“They didn’t give up on me,” says Kennedy. “They saved my life and my baby’s life. And it’s all applause to everybody that worked with me.”
Category: Women & Infants