Last year, Ella Clarke of Devon, England, did something more than 32% of U.S. expectant mothers do: she gave birth via cesarean section. And while this wasn’t Clarke’s first time headed into an operating room — Clarke previous gave birth to seven other children, one vaginally and six via c-section — it was a surprise that her life would be forever changed once she woke up. And not because she’d have a new baby in her arms. Because while things started out “routine,” less than 30 minutes into the surgery doctors realized something was wrong, and Clarke woke from her c-section with a healthy baby, but without her legs.
You see, Clarke had a condition called placenta previa, also known as a low-lying placenta. According to the Mayo Clinic, placenta previa “occurs when the baby’s placenta partially or totally covers the opening in the mother’s cervix.” While some women with this condition are still able to deliver vaginally — if the placenta does not completely cover the cervix — Clarke was not, and a c-section was scheduled midway through her pregnancy. However, once Clarke was on the operating table, it became apparent that her placenta had embedded itself too deeply into her uterine wall, resulting in a dangerous pregnancy complication known as placenta accreta. (In a typical pregnancy, the placenta detaches from the uterine wall shortly after childbirth. However, in those who have placenta accreta, part/all of “the placenta remains attached … [and this can result in severe] blood loss,” according to the Mayo Clinic.)
Clarke’s doctors immediately began giving the mother of eight blood transfusions. She also had an emergency hysterectomy and was placed in medically induced coma. And while that should have been the end of Clarke’s tumultuous ordeal, it was just the beginning — all because of a medical mistake that never should have happened.
While Clarke was in a coma, doctors and (presumably) nurses were supposed to be checking her every hour for clotting. But they didn’t. Six hours allegedly passed without being checked. During that time, a blood clot formed in her legs, which stopped all circulation to the lower half of Clarke’s body.
By the time the clot was found, it was too late to restore circulation and doctors had no choice but to amputate her legs.
Clarke, who “wasn’t worried at all” about the procedure, woke six days later to shocking news: her legs were gone.
“I remember the moment I woke up. I thought I was waking up from my c-section,” Clarke told Daily Mail. “I expected my beautiful little baby girl to be passed to me … Instead I was told doctors had amputated my legs after complications with my C-section … I had no idea I’d been in a coma.”
Now, Clarke is worried about her future and her family’s future.
“I went from being an active mum to instantly wheelchair bound,” she said. “My five-year-old couldn’t look at me without a blanket on because she was scared and my eldest daughter starting falling behind at school. My family was falling apart and I was helpless … I have eight children to look after, what life can I have now? This has impacted us far worse than you can ever imagine.”
Needless to say, Clarke and her family are forever changed. “I’m a shadow of my former self,” she told the paper. “And my kids are now scared to cuddle me because my stumps scare them.”
The good news is, Clarke’s daughter, Winter Rose, was delivered safely, and Clarke is receiving counseling, to figure out how to use her new, prosthetic legs and to come to terms with this shocking tragedy.