A first-time mother whose “bad head and back pain” at 30 weeks of pregnancy were in fact symptoms of deadly maternal sepsis and brain water, shared how her family feared leaving her son without a mother.
Michelle Bazari, 31, was then working as a kindergarten teacher in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland, and was rushed to Victoria Hospital in nearby Kirkcaldy in May 2019, after calling 999 when she felt a ‘blood flow’ while visiting the hospital. toilet at night.
She now lived in Nottingham with her family and her 18-month-old boy, Braxton-Lee, and only understood the gravity of her situation when she learned that a paramedic alerted the hospital about her alarming blood loss.
Still not knowing that her and her baby’s life was at stake, she said, “When I heard the ambulance, all I thought was, ‘Oh, I have a premature baby.’ All I wanted was for my baby to be okay. ”
Michelle Bazari in the hospital with her dad John (Image: PA Real Life / Collect)
Michelle, who is not with her son’s father and lived alone, said there was little warning of the coming horror.
“I haven’t felt so well for a few days,” she said.
“I had bad headaches and back pain, but I thought these were just normal pregnancy symptoms.”
She was so sure everything was on schedule, she’d even agreed to move to a new flat on May 13 – the day she gave birth unexpectedly.
She had a little blood loss after going to bed at first, and she didn’t think much of it at first.
She said, “I know some people can bleed during pregnancy so I thought everything was normal and just went back to bed.
“But when I woke up and went to the toilet again, there was a huge flow of blood, so I called an ambulance.”
When she arrived at the hospital, Michelle still had no idea she had sepsis – a potentially fatal reaction to an infection – which is the leading cause of death in the UK, according to an NHS study, accounting for 1.13 per 100,000 deaths between 2006 and 2006.2008.
In the pre-delivery room, the expectant mother did not understand why the midwives insisted on opening the windows and said, “I felt very cold and very drowsy, but they said my temperature and my blood pressure were both high.
“I fell asleep until the doctors came and told me there was something to do with an infection and my placenta and that they should deliver the baby early.”
Fortunately, her mother, Roselin Bazari, a mental health nurse, had been warned by a friend at church who attended Michelle, flown in from the East Midlands to be there for the birth.
But Michelle can barely remember what happened while she continued to fall asleep during the emergency Caesarean section.
Baby Braxton-Lee is healthy and lives with his mother (Anthony Aigbomian / Omonstony Photography)
“I felt a little nudge as my baby came out, asked if he was okay and then promptly went back to sleep without seeing or hearing him cry. I just didn’t know how sick I was, ”she said.
When she came to the recovery room, she was told by doctors that although her placenta was infected, it had not crossed over to her baby, who was being cared for in the special baby ward, but weighed 1320 g and was doing well.
Unfortunately, her infection was too serious for her to see him.
“In a way, it just couldn’t be seen that I had a baby,” she recalls.
“I was sad that I was not yet full term with the pregnancy because I had so many plans for that final phase, such as shopping for the baby and meeting the doctor that I would be picked up and taken to the hospital. For my arranged C section and other things on my checklist.
“I kept thinking, ‘How did this happen?’
‘But I also started to feel very confused. My visitors would talk, but I just couldn’t respond.
“I tried to get out of bed, but my right leg wouldn’t move, so I was put in a wheelchair to see my baby.
‘Still, I wasn’t myself. I was just silent and unresponsive. “
On Thursday of that week, Michelle was so sick that she was transferred to intensive care, where she remembers her body was shaking from what she was told as ‘septic shock’ and visitors were crying by her bedside.
She tried to say something, but her words made no sense, which made her afraid to speak.
Concerned, doctors ordered a CT scan six days after giving birth, which revealed fluid in her brain causing both her slurred speech and the paralysis on her right side.
Transferred to the more specialized Western General Hospital in Edinburgh to drain the fluid, her baby remained in Victoria Hospital.
At the time, Michelle and her family had also been told she had sepsis and was being treated with heavy doses of antibiotics.
Too unwell to give her consent for surgery, Michelle’s parents had to consent to her brain surgery.
Michelle pregnant with Braxton-Lee (PA Real Life / Collect)
All she can remember coming up to her and feeling something stuck in her throat – which was a tube that helped her breathe and feed her – that she tried to pull out.
It came as a complete surprise when she later learned that she had been in an induced coma for a week so her body could heal, while her family was terrified that she would die, leaving Braxton-Lee without a mother.
“The doctor who came to remove the tube asked me if I knew where I was, what date I was born and what happened,” she said.
“I just felt confused and shook my head.”
Michelle had awakened from a coma with weakness on the right side of her body after a minor stroke, so she had to learn to walk and talk again.
She was kept in the hospital in Edinburgh for three more weeks until the antibiotics cured her sepsis, then was sent back to Victoria Hospital and reunited with her son, who had stayed in Dunfermline and barely seen for a month.
“I knew I had a baby and the staff in Edinburgh kept showing me pictures of how well he was doing, but by the time I got back to the hospital where he was born I couldn’t walk or take all my personal care. let alone take care of him. “
It took another three months of dedicated care from that hospital’s physical therapists and nursing staff to get Michelle back on her feet, bond with her new baby, and take good care of him to go home with her parents in Nottingham.
“The first time they put him in my arms, it was very emotional,” she said. “I just hadn’t seen him so we wouldn’t have had a chance to commit.”
In the weeks that followed, Michelle learned to care for Braxton-Lee, realizing she was lucky to be alive.
She also found that at one point, while she was in a coma after brain surgery, the doctors had told her parents there was nothing more they could do for her.
Her brother, Keithe Bizari, 27, a pianist, was on tour in Scotland with the Kingdom Choir singing Stand By Me at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding, and visited her in the hospital.
He told Michelle that the family had serious fears that they would lose her.
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Spurred on by her own experience, Michelle is now “on a crusade” to raise awareness of maternal sepsis, which she says can be triggered if an infection is caught during intercourse.
“Women don’t think about the risks of infection during pregnancy, but it’s important that we do,” she said.
If you think something is wrong, insist that you get checked out.
“You know your body better than anyone, so ask for the tests and make sure what you are experiencing is not caused by maternal sepsis.”
Michelle, who is now a patient advocate, aftercare campaigner for patients with the condition and volunteer at the Sepsis Trust charity, is keen to highlight the symptoms of the condition, including muscle pain, extreme chills, slurred speech or confusion, severe shortness of breath and long periods without urination.
“I was lucky, I got to the hospital on time and my beautiful boy was unharmed,” said Michelle, who stayed with her family during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“But I was living alone then and if I hadn’t called the ambulance that morning, I could have died easily.
“Now I thank God for every day I spend with Braxton-Lee, but I want other moms-to-be to know about maternal sepsis because not everyone who gets it has a happy ending like me.”
According to the Sepsis Trust, it’s essential to spot the condition – caused by the body’s overreaction to an infection or injury – early on.
A spokesperson explained: “If not addressed immediately, sepsis can lead to organ failure and death, but with early diagnosis it can be treated with antibiotics.
“Many people have never heard of sepsis, but 48,000 people die every year out of the 245,000 affected in the UK. This is more than the number of deaths from breast, colon and prostate cancer combined. “
For more information about sepsis, visit: Sepsistrust.org