Young mother credits 21 strangers for saving her and her newborn

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Jenna Smith and her nine-month old baby daughter Aubrey are thankful for the blood donations from total strangers which helped provide a happy ending to a life threatening situation.

Jenna Smith and her now nine-month old baby daughter Aubrey are thanking 21 strangers for the blood donations which saved their lives.

A rare obstetrical problem created a life threatening situation for the young mother during her third pregnancy this past January, but the skilled effort of a team of doctors along with access to a supply of donated blood led to a happy ending for the family.

Smith now has three beautiful, healthy girls, and she is extremely grateful for how things turned out following a four-hour surgery.

"I have many people to thank for saving my life in January 2013, but there are 22 people that deserve extra credit; Dr Jocelyn Martel and 21 blood-donating strangers I will never have the opportunity to thank. I would not be here today to tell my story had it not been for those people," Smith said while sharing her surgery story.

"The team in the Operating Room cannot be thanked enough. I think about the chaos that was probably happening around me as I lay there helpless; and am so thankful that each person in there fought so hard to save my life. By the end of my surgery there were over 50 people that had come into the operating room," Smith explained. "I ended up having 40 units of blood transfused and multiple litres of plasma and other fluids. Twenty one of those units were Donor Blood, which is why I have 21 strangers to thank for my life. Those 21 people took time out of their day to donate blood, and that blood saved my life. I would not be here today without them, and I will be forever grateful of all people who take time to go give blood."

Smith had her first two daughters via caesarean section births (c-sections), and while both births went smoothly they did result in the production of scar tissue on her uterus.

She began seeing a local doctor over concerns with her pregnancy starting at six weeks, and while trying to explain her issues she was diagnosed with Complete Placenta Previa. When put on home bed rest, she grew concerned with the physician's plan of action, and began researching her symptoms on her own. She ultimately decided to find a new doctor, a move which she credits with saving her life.

"With the help of my mom and my sister who are both in health care, I found myself the best obstetrician in the province, maybe even the country. The day I met Dr Martel is the day that saved my life.  I went to see her and she did an ultrasound and told me that it looked like I could possibly have Placenta Accreta with bladder invasion, so I needed an MRI to confirm. I was 30 weeks pregnant at the time and she told me I would not be leaving the hospital in Saskatoon until I delivered as I live too far from the hospital and it was too risky."

"I was devastated because my family was four hours away from me and I would be sitting in a hospital for weeks. During my stay, I had the MRI that confirmed her suspicion of Placenta Accreta and possible Placenta Percreta, as it looked like my placenta had grown into my bladder. Weeks passed in the hospital with no problems until I went into labour just shy of 35 weeks. Luckily my obstetrician, Dr Martel, was in the building. It was her last day of work before holidays and it just worked out that all the senior doctors were in the building as well. They prepped me for surgery, and I was all alone because my husband was four hours away. He and my sister made their way up while I was in surgery and had no idea what was taking so long since I was in there for four hours.

"Everything the doctors warned me about that could happen, did happen. After my doctor made the first incision she immediately called for more help, she wanted more senior surgeons in there immediately to help. Apparently it was bad, real bad. I was at risk of losing my life."

Her daughter Aubrey was born on January 28, 2013, at 34 and a half weeks, but Smith was still in a life threatening situation as her placenta was stuck to her bladder (placenta percreta). The doctors worked exhaustively on this condition which occurs in one in 5,000 pregnancies.

"I woke up in ICU intubated with 10 intravenous lines in me and a breathing tube, a catheter and two drains in my abdomen."

Both are happy and healthy today, and after a months long recovery Smith is forever grateful for the care she received.

"I am for the most part medically healed but am still struggling emotionally and when I remember that night I feel sick to my stomach and have nightmares about how close I was to losing my life. I cannot stress enough how you cannot just leave your life in the hands of others. If you have a bad feeling about decisions your doctor is making, you need to find a doctor that you trust completely. Dr Martel was that doctor for me, the one I trusted with my life. My family has been an amazing support I am truly blessed to have such amazing loved ones surrounding me."

"I hope this story gives others strength, hope, and encouragement. Aubrey is my miracle baby!" she exclaimed. "I hope this article gives people information on the importance of being a blood donor and helping save others lives in a time of crisis."

A Canadian Blood Services blood donor clinic is being hosted at Bridgeway Community Church on Oct. 7 and 8. Appointments can be booked at 1-888-236-6283.

Organizations: Canadian Blood Services

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