In November of 2006 we welcomed our first child (a son Jackson) into the world. We soon settled into our new normal of parenthood. I had been breastfeeding and while it was going well, I kept getting blocked milk ducts. In January of 2007 I got a blocked duct that wouldn’t go away.
I went in to see my OB/GYN and she told me that I would need a consult with a general surgeon since it seemed that it wasn’t going to unblock on its own. It was decided I would need surgery to open the duct. This is a very rare surgery, most blocked milk ducts don’t get close to needing this. It is also a very simple surgery with a quick recovery time. I had the surgery, the duct was unblocked, and that should have been the end of my story. Unfortunately, on top of all my other health issues, I also have a bleeding disorder.
A week after my surgery I was feeling really good, so my husband and I decided to run a few errands before our 3 month old baby needed a nap. We got in the car after finishing up errands and I felt liquid sticking to my shirt. I thought that since it was close to feeding time it was breast milk, but then I felt a gush and reached my hand under my shirt. When I pulled it back out instead the clear breast milk I had assumed I would find, my hand was covered in blood. As calmly as I could I told my husband to take me to the hospital. We were luckily only a few blocks away. My husband parked the car, and I told him I would go in while he got our son.
By the time I walked up to the registration desk my dark purple sweatshirt was soaked in blood. As I explained I had surgery a week ago and was bleeding, one of the receptionists was already around to get me back to a room, and a nurse was waiting for me on the other side of the door. My memory starts to get hazy at that point because I had lost so much blood and my blood pressure was dropping fast. I remember a lot of nurses and doctors working on me. I remember the IV being put in. I remember them putting the oxygen tube in my nose. I remember hearing my husband’s voice asking where I was. Because I had been so close to the ER when I started bleeding, I made it in time for them to control the blood loss and I didn’t end up needing a blood transfusion. But I was very close to needing one.
In the next month I ended up in the ER 3 more times (twice in one night). By the 4th time I spent most of the day in the ER. I was moved to a more long term care room (basically where you go when you don’t need to be admitted to the hospital yet, but are not well enough to leave). I remember praying that this would be the last time, that my doctors (who were wonderful) would figure out how to stop the bleeding. I remember praying that they would fix it before I bleed too much. They took me back to surgery and cauterized it enough that I finally was able to heal.
While the physical scar healed, emotionally I was a wreck. On top of having a 3 month old and charting the unknown waters of parenthood, I went through an emotional draining trauma. Even after the wound healed and there was no way I could be bleeding, I felt like blood was running down me from the incision. This happened over 8 years ago now and I still sometimes feel the phantom bleeding.
After my 2nd child was born in 2009 I asked my OB/GYN about seeing a therapist. It was there that I was officially diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder from the experience. She also diagnosed me with generalized anxiety disorder, which was something I had been fighting before the PTSD incident, and something I will fight to keep under control forever. I spent years being a nervous wreck before I realized what was broken in me was not something I could fix. Therapy, medication, writing, yoga/meditation, talking about the experience, and time have helped me heal.
My bleeding incident wasn’t the first time I bleed more than I should. I had a tooth pulled and my tonsils removed in my teenage years with excessive bleeding. What ever I have is unpredictable, but I do have something wrong with my platelets. I had no problems with bleeding after getting my wisdom teeth removed, when I had my children, or after a miscarriage that I had to have surgery for. This makes it harder for me to control the PTSD surrounding my bleeding issues. The never knowing if this time I will be fine or if I will end up in the ER again. My hematologist has told me there are likely hundred of types of bleeding disorders they don’t know about because blood is finicky and hard to test. My next step would be to go to MAYO clinic to figure out why I bleed.
I have a severe slipped disc in my neck and every time my doctor mentions surgery (which is looking more and more likely to happen) I get anxious. I worry I will get in a car accident and bleed and bleed. I worry about bleeding, and my blood disorder at the most random times when something triggers my PTSD. All of this compounds and while I am so much better than I once was, it won’t go away. It will always be a little part of me and my story.
If you are struggling with a trauma and feel scared and alone, please know you are not. Find a therapist that specializes in anxiety and/or PTSD. Find a support group, talk to your doctor, or someone you trust and tell them you need help.