Health

‘People say it’s a miracle, but it’s not: the Royal Brompton saved Christina’


Christina Randall went into cardiogenic shock at Watford general hospital in February, moments after giving birth to baby Ronnie by planned caesarean section. She was put into a coma and was “rescued” by a team from the Royal Brompton hospital in London, who were unsure if she would survive the journey there.

However, after treatment at the Brompton, including spending time having extra corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), the 40-year-old shop manager was transferred back to Watford general, made a full recovery, went home and is in very good health.

She remembers nothing of her collapse, so her husband, Dave Randall, here recounts what happened.

“Three planned caesareans were due to take place on the Wednesday morning Christina went into Watford general hospital. She rang me to say she was going to be first up, so after dropping our older son to school I drove to the hospital, ran to the maternity unit and made it just in time.

They got Ronnie out very quickly. But then Christina got agitated, rubbed her face and said: ‘I can’t breathe’, and then her head fell over to the left. I was still holding her hand at the time. I cut Ronnie’s umbilical cord and then an anaesthetist intervened, put Christina to sleep and told me she was very ill. I was then bundled out the door of the operating theatre by a midwife.

Outside in the corridor I saw staff running into the room and began thinking: ‘It’s not going to be OK.’ An hour later two doctors came into the recovery room and told me she’d had a cardiac collapse and they’d resuscitated her and she’d then had a cardiac arrest and they’d resuscitated her for a second time. I started to fear that Christina was going to die.

Christina, Dave and baby Ronnie pictured in September.
Christina, Dave and baby Ronnie pictured in September. Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian

It was one of the Watford doctors that first told me that she had a condition called cardiogenic shock. She had developed that because her heart failed because she had an amniotic fluid embolism. That’s a rare but serious condition in which the amniotic fluid that surrounds a baby in the womb during pregnancy gets into the mother’s bloodstream.

The doctors said they had to get her out of the hospital’s intensive care unit because they couldn’t give her the care she needed. She was very seriously ill and had become more unstable. A team of specialists arrived from the Royal Brompton hospital in London to collect her. They put her on an extra corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine to help her breathe, which is a form of life support. I assumed the worst as they said she might not survive the journey, that she could bleed out on the way in the ambulance. When I heard that, my world crumbled.

The next day a consultant from the Brompton rang and said they were hoping for a good outcome but that Christina could still die. But the day after, they said things had again become more unstable. For the first few days she was in the Brompton I was sure she was going to die. At one point she had only a 20% chance of survival. That was really frightening. I couldn’t sleep, eat, read or do anything. You realise that sometimes the unthinkable does happen and when it does, things unravel fast.

However, Christina improved. She was able to be taken off ECMO after three days and two days later was woken up from her coma, stepped down from intensive care to high-dependency and then to a ward, transferred back to Watford and got home two weeks after giving birth.

People always tell me it’s a miracle Christina survived. But it’s definitely not. It’s thanks to the experts at the Royal Brompton, and for Watford knowing who to call when it happened, that she survived. I was so grateful when she was home with me and the kids after just two weeks. The Royal Brompton going to get her and using the ECMO machine saved her life.”



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