Thursday, 15 October 2009
I became a born again Christian at the age of 16, not long after meeting Robert. I pretty much accepted most things I heard about the Faith, but really struggled with the whole concept of healing. The thought of someone being "magically" made better from any kind of illness just didn't make sense to me. Surely it wasn't possible. I can remember saying during one particular conversation "I will only believe it when I see it!" I'm such a sucker for putting myself in those situations!!! Let me explain how 7 years ago today my life was dramatically changed.....
When Rob and I discovered we were expecting our first baby, we experienced probably every emotion that could be opened up by that double blue line on the pregnancy test. We had been together 5 years, but were still very young. I was just 20 and Rob was 26, and although we had also wanted to be "younger" parents we hadn't been trying to get pregnant. Excitement soon set in though and we really began to enjoy the thought of baby Omokaros arrival. Due date was 27th Feb 2003!
The pregnancy progressed very well. It was text book, and I looked and felt fab. I was in my size 12's then and can remember at 5months desperatly trying to stick my stomach out as there was hardly no bump! (Now I have to suck it all in, but hey ho!!)
Then when I turned 24 weeks, I began to get huge bruises all over my body, along with a purple/red coloured rash - similar to a menagitis rash - under the skin and wouldn't disappear when a glass was pressed against it. I was also suffering from horrendous nose bleeds. My mum is a nurse and had just so happened to nip over to our house one evening not long after all this started happening. She examined the rash etc and rushed myself and Robert to the doctor. As soon as the GP saw the bruises and rash, he was straight on the phone to the Maternity section at the hospital informing them that there was an emergency on the way. I was terrified, and crying. I kept asking him "what about my baby? Is my baby okay?" but all he said was "Stacey, I honestly can't answer you that, all I can tell you is that you need to get to the hospital now. Please just head straight there."
It was horrific as you can probably imagine. Rob got me back into the car, and my mum drove us straight to Wexham. It was the scariest moment of my life, and I kept asking Rob and my mum "do you think the baby's dead? why wouldn't he tell me my baby is okay?"
They were obviously both upset but were trying their best to uplift me and calm me down. We arrived at the hospital shortly after and were given a side room. At first a midwife suggested I take a piriton tablet as maybe I had, had an allergic reaction, which we refused. No way was I going to take piriton when I was pregnant! And my mums nursing knowledge helped her to have an idea of what could be wrong. She was getting increasingly frustrated and told the midwife I needed a blood test. They done all the routine obs on me and we heard the baby's heartbeat so knew he was okay. My blood pressure, etc was perfect, so they agreed to do the bloods. They were advised to make the bloods a priority, so we could get the results asap, and told me I would need to stay in for closer observation until they had the results.
I don't think anything could have prepared us for the shock news. The blood test results came back showing my platelet count had dropped from a healthy 300-400 to just 7.
We were informed that 50 was life threatening, so with my reading and me being pregnant I was basically a walking corpse. They had to page the haemotologist to come and see me. As it was by now quite late, Rob went back to my parents to freshen up and get some rest, and I was advised to sleep until the haemotologist arrived. During the night my platelets further dropped to just 3, and Dr.Mackie arrived on the ward to see me.
Dr.Mackie is your typical consultant. He is one of the leading Haemotologists in England. A tall slim man with grey hair and glasses that he wears at the very top of his nose. He wears suits and has really long slim legs so the suit trousers seem to go on forever. He is very friendly but in a serious, matter of fact kind of way. He is fantastic.
So, back to that very early morning on ward 24. Dr.Mackie and one of his nurses arrived at my bedside. He asked me how I was feeling and examined the bruises and rash - which was now from the tips of my toes, to the top of my neck. I remember one bruise in particular that was huge and placed right in the centre of my pregnant belly. It was heartbreaking to look at.
Dr.Mackie explained to me that he had to perform a procedure called a bone marrow biopsy and that he would need to do this from the bottom of my spine. He explained that he felt that I either had a type of luekemia, or a blood disorder and the result of the biopsy would determine this.
I was crying and asking if I could phone Robert to be with me. I was scared and felt very alone. His nurse phoned Robert, but they had to perform the biopsy straight away as I was beyond being an emergency patient.
I remember walking into the single side room and laying on my side on the bed. His nurse and a midwife each held one of my hands as I lay there sobbing, praying my baby was okay.
It was all very medical with Dr.Mackie explaining the procedure as he performed it. The pain was excruciating and I was willing it to be over. They were very kind to me though and even showed me the bottle of my bone marrow (woohoo, thought they were going to give me a "I've been very brave sticker too, but alas, no!!)
They explained the results would probably take 24 hours to come back, but in the mean while I needed to start a very high dose of steroid to try to stabalise my platelets. I also needed an emergency scan of the baby, and spent some time on the fetal heart monitor in the FAU. Robert was now with me and devastated that he wasnt there for me during the biopsy ordeal. (I think he just wanted to see the procedure done, being the geeky documentary type of guy that he is!!)
We had it confirmed that day that our first baby was indeed a boy - Joshua, and apart from measuring a little on the small side was very healthy. The relief was breathtaking.
So, our first day of being in hospital began. My GP phoned to see what was happening and apologised if he had scared me, but explained that, by walking into his office that day, I had in fact scared him. I later found out from him, he recognised what I had as he had seen one patient in the past with the same illness, but he obviously couldnt tell me that, that day.
I began the dose of steroids at a very high level, and was being monitored CONSTANTLY!
Dr.Mackie came back to see us the following day and explained that I didn't have luekemia but indeed did have a rare blood disorder called ITP - Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia Purpura. This illness can be life threatening and is where for unknown reasons (that's the meaning of Idiopathic!) your body's immune system attacks your platelets stopping your blood from clotting. I was covered in bruises, had the rash and nosebleeds because I was bleeding internally. He informed me that it was a miracle I was still alive, and that if I hadn't gone into hospital that day, I would almost certainly have died from a brain haemorrhage.
The rest of my pregnancy was spent in and out of hospital. I needed countless transfusions of platelets and one blood transfusion, but still we were told these were a false boost to my body just to prepare it for child birth. We were also informed that a caesarean and natural delivery both poised a 50/50 survival rate for myself. I had scans on the baby every two weeks after my diagnosis of ITP as the level of steroid I was on was very dangerous for him and the first sign of distress they would need to consider an early c-section regardless. We were told Joshua could suffer from a slight brain damage due to the steroids.
It was a very emotional time. We continued to buy all our baby equipment, but everything was tinged with an air of sadness. I was so poorly, often sleeping for hours at a stretch.
A particularly difficult week was the week before my 21st birthday and christmas (I'm an xmas baby!) when I had to be in hospital every day from 8am until 6pm having a platelet transfusion. Usually I would go to the maternity area and have the transfusions brought down to me on the FAU, but this week I had to go to the ward where people go for chemo, and other transfusions. My lovely mum, who at that time was working at Thames Valley Hospice (!) was given compassionate leave for 3 months so she could support me. We couldnt afford for Robert to have lots of time off work - I had naturally been signed off, so money was becoming tighter.
My mum drove me to the hospital every day, sat with me for the whole of those 10 hours and then drove me home in the evenings before doing it all over again the following day. She is truly amazing. I can't thank her enough for everything she done for us during that time.
The first thing that upset me that week was the doctor who came round to see me before the transfusions started. He told me everything I had heard before, but the tone he used really upset me. I had to sign a disclaimer stating I knew and understood the risks of me catching HIV, Hepatitis, etc from the transfusions and the risk to the baby. I didnt want to sign the form as he had made me so upset, but the nurses and my mum encouraged me that I needed this transfusion and the risks were minimal, but had to be told to me. I eventually agreed and the transfusion started. Throughout that week I met people of all nationalities, ages, male & female who were having cancer treatment/biopsies/transfusions, etc...
It was a fun week in many ways, with all us patients and relatives laughing alot depsite the sadness. And hearing peoples stories and what they were going through helped me in my battle. There was one elderly lady who was just adorable and cried when she heard what we were going through. Then on the penultimate day of my transfusions, a couple walked in that I recognised. They were the parents of a boy I had been through all my schools with. They explained to us how the dad had been poorly on and off with cancer, and how they thought they were over the worse, but now he was very ill again and would probably spend christmas in hospital. My mum chatted with them lots, but I couldn't really bring myself to get too emotionally attached. I started to feel very down that day.
Now, like I said earlier I became a Christian at 16, but if I'm honest I hadn't really built a strong relationship with God over those years. I think the trouble was Robert and I needed someone in the church we were members of at that time to take us under their wing and encourage us - teach us. We were a very young couple and it was easy to hang around with all our other friends who weren't Christians. I didn't understand back then that I could work on my relationship with God by myself. We attended church most weeks, we prayed now and then, but something hadn't quite clicked into place I guess. We did have lots of people praying for us throughout this time though. Roberts family, some church people, and Roberts friends from his previous church. But still I was doubtful that God could heal someone so poorly!
So, this week of transfusions ended, and my 21st birthday was spent collecting the results to say I was all clear from HIV, etc and that the transfusion had been a success meaning I would be able to spend christmas at home. I should have been relieved, but deep sadness came with the results that day and I couldn't sleep that night. I went downstairs and had decided I'd had enough of life and was going to take all my medication in the hope of not waking up in the morning. I got my meds out and put them on our dining room table, and suddenly felt the urge to write a letter. I didnt know who to, but just began writing regardless. I love writing and it really helped me to jot down all my thoughts and feelings. I finished my "letter" and sat looking at all my medication.
I was scared and crying, and didn't quite know what to do. I then heard someone say to me, switch on the tv to channel 783, which was a christian channel. Can I just add that there was no-one else with me. The house was in darkness, Rob was asleep. The voice I heard was in my mind, but not myself. I now know it was God, but that night I didn't really think about it. I just followed the prompting and put the tv on. There was a man preaching in french. I was really surprised as there was no subtitles yet I could understand everything he was saying. I had studied french up to A'Level standard but by no means could I understand a french conversation where the person was naturally speaking very quickly and passionately in my every day life. This man was talking about healing, and how there was a person out there somewhere who was very poorly, and needed God to break in. That this person was at the deepest low point they had ever been at and they didnt care anymore whether they lived or died. He was urging this person to touch the screen as he wanted to pray with them. Believe me, I had never touched the tv screen in a response to a tv preacher before, and actually haven't since, but that night heavily pregnant, heavily poorly, heavily low I reached out my hands and let God break in. Afterwards as calmly as if I had just come downstairs for a cup of tea, I packed my medication away, switched off the tv, put my "letter" in my keepsake box and went back to bed. I slept like a baby the rest of my 21st birthday night, and the nights to follow also. I didn't share that experience with my family until after christmas. Robert knew it from God, the whole affair. That God had put that programme on, that day, that time just for me. My parents firstly were upset that I had even considered suicide, and then began asking more questions about God - they were "non-believers" at this time.
So the weeks after christmas continued with hospital and midwife visits. My platelet count had risen to 115, which was still very low, and a "false" result in that if I wasnt on the steroids and having the transfusions they would drop straight back down again. But the fact they had reached over 100 was greatly celebrated by everyone, inc Dr.Mackie.
Then on the evening of January 22nd 2003, an hour after I had finished dressing the babys cot (I wanted everything prepared and was getting very excited to me him!) I had show, which is where the mucus plug closing the cervix comes away. I had read various pregnancy books so understood what this meant. I went to bed as usual that night thinking I must contact my doctors in the morning. Then just after midnight I woke up with very painful contractions. I woke Robert and was very scared. Not only had I never experienced pain like it before, but the baby wasn't due for another 5 weeks. We were giggling nervously in between contractions and Rob was timing them to see if they got closer together. We called my parents and the hospital. Obviously everyone in maternity knew my name and had been informed of what was happening so they told me to head straight in. My parents came to collect us, and off we set. My dad probably took the longest journey he could to the hospital. He claimed he wanted to avoid all the roads with speed bumps so as not to cause me discomfort....virtually impossible in Cippenham/Slough where nearly every road has speedbumps!! lol, it's funny to think back on that journey.
We arrived at maternity and were whisked straight into a labour room where I was met by two midwives, a consultant from Dr.Mackies team, an anaesthetist, and two of the gynecology team. My modesty evaporated into thin air at that moment!!!! I was already 4 centimetres dilated, and so it was decided we would try for the natural delivery I so wanted. The labour progressed very well, but frustratingly they wanted me on the bed alot of the time, hooked upto the heart monitor, etc...This was all very new to them aswell, not alot of midwives knew about ITP, and no-one could predict the end result of this birth so everyone was trying to behave great but was naturally nervous. My parents were fab. My dad would pop into the room every now and then, and at one point had me in stitches when he revealed he was in shock as someone had escaped from the mental health area and had flashed him in the carpark when he was topping up the carpark ticket. Hilarious. God is so great that even in times of anguish, He has a sense of humour!!
After 10 hours of labour, I was ready to push. I needed an episiotomy to help me deliver Josh, and a short while later at 4.10pm out he came, tiny with a huge mop of dark black hair, screaming and wriggling around. Good signs!!! He was gorgeous, but a little jaundice due to being early. Whilst he had his newborn tests done, the doctors struggled to control the bleeding I was suffering following his delivery. Where the doctor had made the incision for the episiotomy, she had slightly nicked a vein, which usually wouldn't necessarily cause a problem, but as I had ITP my blood wasn't clotting meaning I was haemorrhaging. Suddenly panic took over. Countless people were rushing into the room, and a crash team turned up. I was being constantly stitched, then un stitched, stitched, then unstitched and was in agony. I could feel life draining away as the bleeding didn't show any signs of stopping. My parents were hysterical outside the room, and Robert was getting really cross with the medical staff. He suddenly began to pray over me demanding the bleeding to stop, and literally a minute later it did. Within half an hour I was sitting up in bed holding my baby Joshua who depsite being through everything he had, was very healthy and didn't need to go to scbu. He was very tired though and as I was so weak I was advised not to feed him myself that night. We were also kept in that labour room overnight as a precaution in case I did suffer anymore bleeding or anything. It was very surreal when it was just myself and Josh left in that room. I lay there staring at him, watching him breathing, sneezing, moving his tiny fingers. I fell in love with him instantly. I thanked God for him and that I was here to witness at the very least his first few hours of life.
The next day we were moved to the postnatal ward, where I was told miracously despite losing 4 pints of blood my platelet reading had stayed at 115. I did need a blood transfusion which wasn't ideal, but was greatly appreciated at the same time. After 5 days we were let home and life as a mummy and daddy really started for us. I was still having my weekly appointments with Dr.Mackie, and was so blessed that straight after Josh was born my steroids were reduced by 25mg, meaning I could safely establish breastfeeding. God provided another miracle for us by answering that prayer!
Initially at the start of my treatment I was told I was likely to be on steroids for at least a year after the baby's birth. However, 3 months after Joshua was born I was completly off all medication, my platelet count had returned to a very healthy 320 and you would never have thought we had just lived the past 7 months with death constantly knocking at my door! Dr.Mackie asked me at my last appointment "Stacey, how can it be that you are sitting here so healthy and happy, with this beautiful 12 week old baby who is also so healthy? You should be dead! You are a miracle!" To which I replied "God had other plans for us!"
I had been advised to consider not having more children as they couldn't be certain the ITP would return. God thankfully took that decsion out of our hands as a week before Joshua's 1st birthday we discovered we were expecting baby number 2!!! The pregnancy was 100000% healthy, with a 2 hour labour where I needed no intervention-in fact I had just one midwife in the room with us that time around. All very boring in comparison!! :o)
And as everyone who knows us personally will know, we have also been blessed with a further 2 sons. Isaac who's 2 yr and 5 months and Samuel who's 9 months. Again both pregnancies and labours were text book PERFECT!
I think for financial purposes and my sanity we will now stop with the whole producing babies! As gorgeous as they are....4 boys aged 6 yrs and under is full on! Im so happy though when I think what could have been.
God is just amazing. When Joshua was 6 months, my parents gave their lives to Christ. They claimed they couldn't not believe in him when they had witnessed first hand His amazing ways.
God has performed many miracles and answers to prayers in this past 7 years (It was 7 years ago today I was diagnosed with ITP). Firstly my mum coming over to our house that night, when she wasnt going too and rushing us to my GP, he then stopped me from commiting suicide that night. A young girl on her 21st birthday desperate for a breakthrough. He gave my platelets that "false" boost and He delivered our baby healthy with no brain damage or other problems. Josh may have been a tiny 5lb 9oz, but now he's like a giraffe. That boy is so intelligent, funny, handsome, popular and advanced for his years. God stopped me from bleeding to death when a team of more than 10 people couldn't handle the situation, he healed me from ITP a whole year earlier than any top haemotologist had predicted, and when I say heal, I mean heal! I have had 3 more children since then and ITP has never been an issue. At times if I'm abit run down I get the odd bruise or nosebleed, but I know that's either just the devil trying to break me, or God reminding me what He done back then! Maybe it's both....
But the most amazing miracle to come out of the whole affair for me is that my parents came to know Jesus for themselves. I would go through it all again if it meant that happened.
Im just so grateful to God. Don't get me wrong it hasnt been a total walk in the park. At times I can get upset with the memories, especially when I heard my friend from schools dad did die over that christmas. It made me question "what I have I done to deserve healing, when others are dying?" A tough one hey, but I do believe it meant God wasn't done with me. We have now been members of a great church for the last 5 and a half years where I have got stuck into ministry work, shared my testimony resulting in women giving their lives to Christ and have grown as a couple and as Christians amazingly. I never question Gods powers, what He can do. I'm only human so yes at times I question the whys and whens but I can say when it comes to His healing powers and how He answers prayers, I'm a changed person.
God may not always answer prayers how we expect them to be answered, but one thing I know for sure is that He's for us, more than anyone else in the world and He will never let us suffer. We just need to have Faith in Him and Trust His plans for our lives. I speak from experience and yes, I'm still learning but I have had a confirmation of the Godly kind that this life isn't for nothing and I sure won't be wasting a minute of mine despairing over the things that don't happen but instead will continue to embrace the things that do happen. God is in control...let Him prove Himself to you!!