Belfast Telegraph

Miracle mum: My heart stopped for six minutes as I was giving birth

By Laura Abernethy

A Newtownabbey mother nearly died while giving birth after amniotic fluid seeped into her bloodstream, stopping her heart for six minutes.

Jude Armstrong (40) "turned purple and collapsed" moments after her waters broke in November last year as she went into labour with her third son Ronan, who's now aged nine months.

As midwives at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital rushed the expectant mother to theatre, her terrified husband Nathan (34) feared she'd had a heart attack.

However, Jude had actually suffered an amniotic fluid embolism. This is a rare and potentially fatal condition that sees amniotic fluid or matter from the foetus get into the mother's bloodstream.

After she went into cardiac arrest and lost nine litres of blood following a catastrophic haemorrhage, Jude's family were told to expect the worst.

But, remarkably, she pulled through and is now back at home with little Ronan.

"When I first realised how serious it was, I couldn't stop crying and thinking about the what-ifs," said Jude, who is also mum to Connor (6) and five-year-old Mason.

"I came so close to leaving my boys without a mum.

"I was told it's a complete and utter miracle that I'm still here.

"I'm so thankful for the NHS. Words can't articulate how amazing they are.

"The quick thinking of the midwives, cardiologists, anaesthetists and obstetrician consultants who worked on me saved my life," she added.

Jude, who like her husband is a teacher, had enjoyed a healthy pregnancy with Ronan.

Then, at 39 weeks, her bump became so big that medics decided to induce her.

Having never been through the process before she was nervous, but also excited, about meeting her new baby boy.

Although her memory is very hazy, she recalled contractions starting quickly after induction, and she also described feeling "tired and floppy".

"The last thing I remember is my waters breaking," she said.

"Midwives whisked me away and, just a few minutes later, came back and handed Ronan to Nathan, who'd been delivered using forceps because I had breathing difficulties."

After the emergency delivery, Jude went into cardiac arrest twice - her heart stopping for a total of six minutes.

Using a defibrillator, doctors resuscitated her but she then began haemorrhaging uncontrollably.

She underwent an emergency hysterectomy to stem the bleeding.

"The nine litres of blood I was transfused helped save me, so I'd really like to urge others to give blood if they can," she said.

With her organs failing, Jude was then placed in an induced coma.

Her stricken family were told she probably wouldn't make it and, even if she did, she'd likely be in a permanent vegetative state due to the lack of oxygen to her brain when her heart had stopped.

While she was unconscious, Nathan brought Ronan into intensive care, allowing him some skin-to-skin contact with his mum in case the worst happened.

He also played Jude videos of Connor and Mason playing and singing.

Miraculously, after 24 hours, she woke up, gripping her twin sister Rosie's hand.

"I couldn't speak because there were tubes down my throat so I kept mouthing to the doctors asking them where my baby was," she said.

Jude was in hospital for almost a month recovering, and she had to learn to walk all over again.

Nathan and the boys kept a vigil at her bedside.

Doctors also explained the severity of the condition, telling her she was only the second case they had seen in 30 years - the other being a patient who didn't survive.

Jude added: "People had to help place Ronan on me so I could touch him. The condition could have been really dangerous for him, too.

"Thankfully, though, he was born weighing 10lb 3oz and is the healthiest, most content little baby."

Jude is now working to raise awareness of amniotic fluid embolisms.

As well as having regular heart check-ups, she is due to have a brain scan because she has struggled with memory and concentration since the embolism, but is otherwise doing well.

"It was a long time before I could talk about what happened," she said.

"But I'm getting there. I've got an amazing support system of family and friends and I feel unbelievably blessed."

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