When Franciscan Health Michigan City’s Family Birth Center encountered a rare, life-threatening childbirth condition, expertise and teamwork combined to save the life of a Michigan City mother and her baby.
Teresa Gomez came to Franciscan Health Michigan City on Jan. 31, 2022, to give birth to her seventh child. However, this labor was different from any she had before. She developed an amniotic fluid embolism, a serious condition that occurs when amniotic fluid enters the mother’s bloodstream. It’s a condition with high mortality risk for mother and infant. “I couldn’t breathe, and my blood pressure was dropping every five minutes. All of the sudden, I felt really hot and sick to my stomach,” Teresa said. “Shortly after that, I went downhill.”
OR Clinical Manager Michele Bonetski described the quick response by the team in Michigan City. “We were notified of need and within minutes, had anesthesiologists and team at the bedside to assist. Everyone recognized the urgency and there were lots of people to provide support. It was truly a major team effort.”
Baby girl Autumn was delivered via emergency C-section in 17 minutes and was doing well, but for Teresa, the situation was much more complicated. Besides respiratory difficulty, she developed severe hemorrhaging and had to undergo emergency surgery to save her life. In addition to the doctors and nurses, an interventional radiologist, anesthesiologists, intensivists, lab staff and others took part in her care. Before her condition was stabilized and she was moved to the intensive care unit, she had received 14 units of blood.
Family Birth Center Clinical Manager Patty DeStefano said, “For this patient to survive what happened to her is truly a testament to the skilled physicians, nurses and support staff, along with Franciscan Health ensuring we have the equipment we need to provide the necessary care.”
To Family Birth Center RN Pam Harmon, who has 22 years of experience, the effort was remarkable. “I’ve only seen this twice in my career, and both times, the mom did not survive. To have the three OB docs there, all the anesthesia and surgery supporting this, if everybody hadn’t pulled together, we wouldn’t have had the outcome that we did,” she said.
Teresa said she didn’t fully understand what was happening before she was placed under anesthesia. She awoke in the ICU hooked up to IVs and on a ventilator. “I was shocked, and then all I could do was just cry. It’s just very scary, knowing I went through all of that,” Teresa said. “I still have bad dreams about what happened.”
Autumn’s father, Gage Brokop, said the whole ordeal was “overwhelming, but I stood by her side,” splitting time between the maternity ward and ICU. He kept her oldest daughter away from the bedside during the worst of it. “I didn’t want her to see her mother with a tube down her throat, fighting for her life.”
Teresa’s daughter Bridget said she was worried and crying but stayed calm for everyone around her. “I was hoping and praying you would make it out alive, and you did. I was so thankful. You are a strong fighter and am proud of you,” she said.
OB/GYN Sharmilee Thota, MD, emphasized what a dangerous situation Teresa was in. “Amniotic fluid embolism is a very rare condition. It happens one in 100,000 deliveries. It is associated with a very high mortality rate for the mother and fetus, and the morbidity is also very high. Time is very critical. It is very commendable and impressive the way everyone responded and played a very crucial role in handling the situation, which resulted in a positive outcome.”
Teresa is thankful for the lifesaving care she received from the Franciscan Health Michigan City team, including her OB/GYN Alfredo Pamintuan, MD. “He was just an outstanding, amazing doctor. I couldn’t ask for better. And the nurses that were working that shift, they were my old nurses I had previously. They already knew me, so that was a good thing.”
Now home with Autumn, Teresa recalls the “amazing people” who cared for her. “I couldn’t thank them enough for saving my life and my child’s life. I wouldn’t know what to do if I was not here. My kids would be lost.”
Teresa’s brother Mike Mikowski said he loves his sister with all his heart. “I’m glad that she made it through this tough time with a beautiful daughter,” he said.
Sally Jo Fraze, the mother of Teresa’s friend who says she is like a daughter to her, said when Teresa was in the hospital, she was worried about how she would explain to her other children what happened to their mom and baby sister. “She is one amazing mother. She’s a fighter,” she said. “She obviously pulled through with a guardian angel over her.”
Teresa says she thinks that guardian angel was her father. “I think my dad was guiding me, protecting me and telling me, ‘Hey, Teresa, it’s going to be okay. Fight through it. Come on, wake up. Your kids need you. And that’s what got me to keep fighting and stay strong. It’s my kids, who are my world.”