After what was meant to be a routine caesarean section, a UK mother woke from a coma and discovered her legs had been amputated.
Ella Clarke of Devon is a mother of eight healthy children, seven of whom were born safely via vaginal delivery or caesarean.
But during her eighth pregnancy, doctors discovered Clarke had placenta previa, a condition where the placenta blocks all or part of the cervical opening. While the condition doesn’t make vaginal delivery impossible, in Clarke’s case a caesarean was the best option. She was scheduled for her operation towards the end of her pregnancy.
While they were operating, doctors discovered that Clarke had placenta accreta, a dangerous condition where the blood vessels and tissue of the placenta grow deeply into the uterine wall. In a normal delivery, the placenta detaches from the uterus after childbirth, but in placenta accreta, all or part of the placenta remains attached, causing severe blood loss. The course of action is normally a hysterectomy.
Clarke was given blood transfusions, and after her uterus was removed, she was put in a medically induced coma for six days.
It’s usual practice to check a comatose patient hourly for blood clotting, but Clarke alleges that doctors and nurses neglected to check her for six hours. A blood clot formed over that time, and circulation to both her legs was blocked.
The clot was discovered too late; doctors weren’t able to restore circulation, and as a result, Clarke’s legs had to be amputated.
The devastating medical bungle happened late in 2015, but Clarke has only been able to speak out about her ordeal now. With eight children to care for, her life is changed beyond anything she could have imagined.
“I went from being an active mum to instantly wheelchair bound,” she says in the Daily Mail. “I’m a shadow of my former self… and my kids are now scared to cuddle me because my stumps scare them.”
In the time since the surgery, Clarke’s baby, Winter Rose is doing well, and Clarke has new prosthetic legs. She is getting counselling to help her and her family cope with their new life.