Our Family Portrait Almost Didn’t Look Like This
Sherrece Zimmerman was 37 weeks pregnant and thrilled to soon be adding to their family, which already included a 3-year-old son. “I was super excited,” she said. “It was such a blessing to know that we were having a little girl. We wanted the all-American family.”
While blow-drying her hair one morning, she sneezed and suddenly felt a huge gush. “I thought, well, my water broke.”
But it wasn’t water. It was blood.
“When I started losing so much blood, I knew I was in trouble and I needed help fast.”
“I was scared,” Sherrece said. “When I started losing so much blood, I knew I was in trouble and I needed help fast.”
Sherrece's obstetrician, Dr. Tage Born of Avera Medical Group OB/GYN Aberdeen, had diagnosed her with placenta previa early in the pregnancy - a condition that is not uncommon. As in most cases, Sherrece's condition resolved itself, and her pregnancy progressed without complications. Sherrece was told not to be too concerned. She needed to be careful and not lift too much and could expect everything to turn out fine. But now she found herself sitting in the bathroom, terrified and fearing the worst.
When speed counts
She called a nurse practitioner friend of hers, who rushed her to the local emergency room in Ashley, N.D.
Plans were quickly made to transport Sherrece to Avera St. Luke’s Hospital in Aberdeen, S.D. To speed the process, a Careflight helicopter was dispatched to meet the ground ambulance on the way.
Placenta Previa can resolve, but if the location of the placenta is fairly low, there is increased risk of premature separation or abruption.
“We got a phone call from her in the Ashley hospital indicating that she was having quite a large amount of bleeding,” explained Dr. Born. “That amount of bleeding in that point of the pregnancy indicates a possibility of a placental abruption, a premature separation of the placenta from the uterine wall prior to the delivery of the baby. It can be life threatening to both the baby and the mother.”
That’s when speed counts. Careflight was on the way while the Ashley ambulance started heading toward Aberdeen. They met 12 miles outside of Ashley and made the transfer. Dr. Born knew that timing was critical.
“Her chances were good as long as Sherrece arrived in the hospital in a timely fashion,” said Dr. Born. “Sometimes a placental abruption will stop bleeding, but if it continues to bleed, it won’t stop until the baby is delivered — until you get that baby out.”
A team effort
This type of situation is not common. About 1 percent of pregnancies are complicated by placental abruption, and 12 percent experience death of the child before birth. She may not have known the percentages were working against her, but Sherrece did feel better when Careflight landed and she was wheeled into the Avera St. Luke’s emergency room.
“It was a huge, huge sigh of relief, knowing I was in a good place, and they were going to take care of me and save my baby.”
“It was a huge, huge sigh of relief, knowing I was in a good place, and they were going to take care of me and save my baby,” she said.
The ER crew and operating room staff were prepped and ready. The ER was busy with health care staff ready to help, including paramedics, an ER physican, ER nurses, an obstetric team, an anesthesiologist and operating room team. Dr. Born was there, too. “I remember that when she heard my voice, her hand popped up,” said Dr. Born. “I reached over the people and grabbed her hand. I knew at that point she was fine and she was going to be OK.”
Sherrece remembers that moment, too. “She held my hand and said everything was going to be OK, and that was what I needed to hear. I had no fear, no worries.”
She was taken to surgery where the baby was delivered by Cesarean section. “When I woke up, and a nurse was standing in the recovery room holding my daughter’s picture and said, ‘You had a little girl’, I had tears of joy,” said Sherrece.
It had been a whirlwind experience – discovering the bleeding at 6:30 a.m. and having her baby by 8:12 – 80 miles from home.
‘Our little miracle’
Neither baby nor mother had any complications.
“It was a great team effort. From the people in Ashley, to Careflight, to the ER and the OR, the team effort that they all did was absolutely astonishing. If it wasn’t for them, I would not be able to celebrate my beautiful daughter’s life. Trinity is our little miracle. She is now 2 1/2 years old, and we’re both here — alive to tell the story.”
Since that experience, Sherrece and her husband Willis were blessed with another pregnancy. At first, the fear of a repeat experience was a concern. Even though she had the C-section delivery for her second child, Sherrece was able to deliver her next baby girl by normal vaginal delivery, a choice she made for herself after considering all of the information from her doctor.
“Dr. Born reassured me that not every pregnancy is the same. And she was right, it was amazing.”
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