How I survived a ruptured ectopic at 11 weeks pregnant

We were overseas in Croatia, we had been since July that year, so 6 months already. My partner was born and raised in Croatia, Pula, and like so, when we had a child we always wanted for her to spend as much time as possible there, the lifestyle was so much different then mine in Australia, it was much more relaxed and gave the children, freedom. We decided early on to celebrate our daughters first birthday in Pula, as most of our family were in Europe, with the exception of my parents.

December the 1st was her birthday, and we had her celebration on the 2nd. December a month I will never forget, for a few standout reasons, obviously Layla’s first birthday it took us a lot of pain to get her and here she was turning 1, my university degree was finally on paper, the sale of our second home settled on the day of Layla’s birthday and finally, the last reason I could never forget this month –

It was the month I ‘conceived’ naturally…

Actually, the day before her birthday was the last day of my period, considering my body was clockwork ever since having Layla I should have expected aunt flo on the 22 of December 2017, day before or after but always on time. Now, I would have usually paid very good attention to these details, but this month was a little different. As mentioned, my parents were the only ones who lived in Australia, so for their first granddaughters birthday they made their way to Pula. After the birthday they went to visit family in Bosnia, however within a few days my mum became extremely ill. She was admitted to the hospital in Bihac, but instead of getting better as she wished so they could get the first flight back home, she kept getting worse. (I’m happy to write out about this in a separate blog, as it’s not the main story, but it’s here as it’s one of the main details of my story) Hence my thoughts were occupied between her and my just-turned-1 year old. We decided to drive to Bosnia on the 25 of December and visit mum, help out where we could. I distinctly remember thinking, it was time to get my period, and I had made the extra effort of packing pads in Layla’s nappy bag.

The situation there was rough and again I had no time to make sense of anything that was happening with me, but once mum was discharged from hospital we left to go back home. Our days continued as normal, husband was working, Layla would wake up, we’d have breakfast, travel down the 6 flights of stairs, for our morning walk to the town — practically only one street away, but a really long street, with huge trees on both sides and an amazing Christmas light display (Croatia does Christmas really well).

Our second day back and I started feeling a little strange, a little not-my-self. I originally put it down to the travel and mum’s situation, but once I started getting cramps, a thought popped into my head, now if you have read my previous blog you’ll know I have 2 blocked fallopian tubes and my daughter was conceived via IVF (my tubes were as good as tied — words of my doctor), so this thought, I knew was crazy –

Could I be…pregnant? 

And just like that it wouldn’t leave. Then I found my pads I packed in Layla’s nappy bag, untouched, I was 2 weeks late, what possible explanation could I have for that – I kept having an argument with my inner self day in day out ~ Nadina, snap out of it, you can’t get pregnant. I tried to go on with my days, but then my lower back flared up, unusual as I had never had any problems with my back, I assumed it was from picking Layla up and carrying her up and down all them stairs, I tried to convince myself that was the reason for it, but I just couldn’t stop thinking… So when hubby got home that day I expressed my concern to him, now why hubby and i get along so well, it’s because I’m an absolute realist, I go off facts, but hubby, he is the most positive person around he believes in the good of everyone & EVEN in the chance that miracles can happen when you have blocked tubes. So he went and bought me a test, he gave it to me and his words still sit with me ‘I know this is it’.

I went to the toilet and did what I needed to do – I was so frustrated with myself, why am I doing this again; thinking I was pregnant when I wasn’t. I finished up, washed my hands, looked over; and I just paused…

It was positive. 

I’d seen a million of these tests, but never a positive and here I was, with one in my hands, and I had no idea what to do. I walked out of bathroom and boy was it hard, a living room full of people and I had to act like nothing just happened. I called my partners name trying desperately to keep a straight face, but as soon as our eyes met a smile overtook my face that I could not control. This moment even if it was short-lived looking back now, it was one of my favourites — just pure happiness.

We had our appointment at night-time, an older doctor, beautiful little clinic and very prompt. I got prepared to undergo an ultrasound. I should have been about 7-8 weeks now according to the calculations, so baby should have been visible. When he turned the screen on, I could see what he was seeing, but I was trying so hard to hold on to my miracle desperately searching for something that resembled a baby.

But nothing.

The doctor asked if I had any pain in my sides, which I didn’t, but I did explain the pain in my lower back that kept me bedridden. He told me, this was 99% a miscarriage, but he would send me for a blood test to confirm. The following day after my blood test the clinic had rung to tell me my HCG level was 17, I called the doctor as per his instructions and he told me it wasn’t a high enough number to be a viable pregnancy and it would wash out with my period, he confirmed it was a miscarriage (keep in mind this doctor had over 45 years of experience) – I asked if I should do another test in 48 hours to see if the number had fallen, but instead he got upset I was questioning him. I would have perhaps gone to another doctor if I didn’t start bleeding the next day, however I assumed he was right so decided not to dwell on it and leave it at that. Even though it wasn’t viable, a miscarriage had meant I could still fall pregnant! I was over the moon, what greater news!

2 weeks after; my back pain was still their but bearable, I tried to avoid lifting Layla as much as I could so I could rest my body. Meanwhile, back in Bosnia my mother had just undergone spleen surgery so we were planning to go and see her for a few days, but I wanted to make sure I was 100% so she didn’t have more worries. Within the week she was taken back and forth from home, back to hospital in Banja Luka to an emergency transfer to Tuzla, where she was admitted to the heart clinic. Mum required open heart surgery and once she was deemed strong enough for it we left to visit her.

February the 8th, we left for Tuzla, a total trip of 12 hours, 6 hours in we stopped to pick up dad and for the sake of Layla we slept over night at my Nan’s house, it was here I noticed something was wrong – Since the day I found out my results, the thought of still being pregnant had not crossed my mind at all. I had just put Layla to sleep, and on tv was the princess diaries, this movie I had watched 100 times and never shed a tear, so when I was bawling my eyes out during the movie, I clicked, this wasn’t me, this was the hormones…

I’m still pregnant. 

Later in the day I did a test, but this time I was 200% sure, enough to watch the positive that came within 0.2 seconds. 2 thoughts crossed my mind, either I had fallen pregnant really late in my cycle (positive side) or that I had an ectopic pregnancy (realistic side). Whatever it may have been the plan was to ‘get this trip over and done with’ and it consisted of seeing my mum, spending 2 days in Tuzla and heading right back to Croatia where I could then take care of this. I had no pain, not even in my back, no bleeding,  nothing — it should be fine?

The next day we arrived in Tuzla, settled in our apartment and went to see mum, she had just had surgery and was placed in intensive care, they usually don’t allow for visitors in intensive care, for obvious reasons, but considering mum’s circumstances and how far we had travelled the doctor allowed it. First you have to enter a special room, put on scrubs, masks, gloves and plastic socks and then travel through a hallway with at least 5 security doors whilst being escorted. I guess it may have been the sight of her, the place, maybe even the travel, but I felt faint, I was getting overwhelmingly hot, and my vision was getting blurrier no matter how much I squinted. I was escorted out with the worst gut feeling something was going to go wrong. Downstairs I spoke to my partner and we both agreed to at least be proactive while we were there, so we booked in at a women’s clinic who were able to see us immediately, ‘Korak do života’. The ultrasound, again, showed no baby, abnormally large fallopian tubes and 2 extremely large cysts. We spoke about the possibility it may be an ectopic, but she couldn’t confirm until I did 2 blood tests 24 hours apart.

The next day was spent visiting my mum and getting my bloods taken again, the day passed with no pain or bleeding, a positive sign everything would work out. The plan for our last day was very specific, get up, pack all of our things in the car, see the doctor for my results, see mum and head for Zagreb.

Why we were adamant to get Zagreb? Well, for a few reasons: 1. After my mum’s experience and my entire life in Bosnia it was obvious their hospital system was not up to any standards (nicely put). 2. If anything were to happen I wanted to at least be closer to my daughter and our home. 3. Since I was on a visa in Croatia I had specific travel insurance that was extremely complicated to update and since we only planned to go Bosnia for 2 days we didn’t think it was necessary besides I was ‘fine’ at the time and if anything was to happen we were only 3 hours away from Zagreb.

The day was going as planned, everything was packed, amir washed the car and I headed to my appointment alone. I walked up the stairs, greeted the ladies and took a seat, the seat where I experienced abdomen pain for the first time, it wasn’t that bad…but enough to make me flinch. I was holding on to the chair so tightly desperate for my name to be called. There was a water fountain outside of the sitting room so In between what was feeling like contractions I raced up to get a drink of water in hopes that it would calm me down and of course as soon as I did that I could hear my name being called from the waiting room.

Inside the vibe was different I could see she didn’t know how to express what she had to say, her face was worried and she kept asking how I was. I never liked people feeling sorry for me, I felt so little, so I just kept reassuring her I was fine, even though that may have not been the case in the waiting room. She sat and said, ‘it’s not good, it’s what I thought’ my HCG levels came back at 19300 and as a clear sign of an ectopic the rise was only 30 which showed things were at its limit.  ‘You need to go to the hospital, straight away,’ I suppose I wasn’t surprised I knew it was an ectopic as soon as I realised I was still pregnant, gut feeling and even though I was sad, I was more angry at the entire situation; I mean Why didn’t I just go to another doctor at the start this would have been dealt with so much differently.

I walked out still thinking about how we were going to drive to Zagreb, I probably didn’t take it as seriously as I should have, but in all honesty that was me, I never take my problems seriously and I just couldn’t stop thinking about the situation I’d be putting Layla in.

Timing is a funny thing, I walked all the way down the stairs, across the road, paid for my parking, but then when I got to my car door, the pain caught up to me, a pain that took my breath away, it was so sharp I could feel my insides bursting, I caught my breath but only enough to realise the river of blood which was pouring uncontrollably down my legs. When something needs to happen, it will happen and it will occur in the most inconvenient time and place, amazing.

I had no idea what to do, I had the car, my dad, Layla and partner were at the apartment, we needed to leave as new people were coming, there was no one I could call and I would have just complicated things by going back in side. With that being said, I will never understand how I did this, but I got in that car, regained my composure and drove back to the apartment. My partner had helped me up to the bathroom where blood just kept leaking, uncontrollably and really strong. It took a good 5 minutes to stop, but when it did the pain immediately subsided, like nothing had happened. I came out and the crazy person I am, I just wanted to continue on, I just didn’t care anymore, It was just bad news after bad news, a constant ride of ups and downs.

Finally, we were on our way to Zagreb, night-time had fallen and the pain was slowly coming back,  the last thing I remembered was the radio playing and over to my right was Layla drinking her milk, from there I woke up to panic around me, I was in a wheelchair at the hospital, my partner had turned the car around when he realised I passed out. The hospital had accepted me immediately and placed me in a room with about 8 other people while I waited for an operation, my husband was filling out paperwork and I could hear my daughter screaming and crying ‘mum’ in the hallway, but I was helpless I couldn’t go and lift her, hug or kiss her, I just lied there listening to her scream for me.

I was in that room for at least an hour, until I started to feel different; my vision went completely blurry, black fog started forming around my eyes, and my body became numb, I could hear things but I couldn’t make out where or what it was coming from anymore. I had never experienced a seizure before, and in the moment I could feel my body shaking uncontrollably but I just couldn’t make out what was happening or gain control over any part of my body, it was like this horrible dream I couldn’t get out of. A nurse had come running in and I distinctly remember her yelling, waving her hands in my face while another nurse was holding my tongue, everything stopped and it was finally over – I could finally breathe. It only took about 5 minutes before the next one started, the same way, my vision and then the numbness, but this time was worse the bed had no side rails and there were no doctors or nurses only other patients in the room, so before I knew it I had hit a hard surface. The nurses put me back on the bed, and I just shut down, I gave up; ‘this is it, I’m going to die’. Next minute I was in a theatre, doctors with masks, the time 10:32pm above me and I was back out.

4 and a half hours later the operation had finished. I woke up to a room of 4 other ladies all who had surgery that night, I was sore, hooked up to some drips and machines with 2 cannula’s, a drain and a catheter. The doctor came by and explained to all of the patients how surgery went, the lady across from me had an ectopic too, it didn’t rupture, but prior treatment didn’t work so she had a Laparoscopy to have it removed, she was already up and walking only an hour after surgery,‘you’ll be leaving today’ the doctor told her, the poor lady just had surgery and a fallopian tube removed but yet here I was envious, jealous of the position she was in, that could have been me.

He came up to me, ‘Aaaa, Nadina, we nearly lost you’ I swallowed, I had nothing to say anymore, what was I supposed to say? ‘We’ll need to do another blood transfusion, as you lost too much blood, so you can expect to be here for the next 7-10 days’. 10 days are you f***ing kidding me, I felt robbed, robbed of my time, robbed of the last month, robbed of these 10 days and robbed of the upcoming months for recovery. I had a Laparotomy that consisted of 2 incisions, one across my abdomen larger than a c-section & the 2nd for a drain. The foetus measured at 3 cm which was pretty impressive for an ectopic, the right tube ruptured and due to the build up from the past 10-11 weeks the internal bleeding damaged all of my reproductive organs. My left Fallopian tube was also removed and my right ovary, the left ovary was left but extensively damaged along with my uterus, which would mean slim chances of using my own eggs, and slimmer chances in ever carrying another full term pregnancy. Cue here the doctor’s speech on how not to dwell on this, but instead remain positive I was alive, with the amount of blood that had filled my abdomen it wasn’t hours in question, but minutes. 

10 days in this hospital, was tough, I was trying to overcome or come to terms with what just happened, but the environment made it harder everyday. It was hard being all alone in a vulnerable state, my partner and daughter were a 11-12 hour drive from me, family didn’t know just incase the news would get back to my mum which was the last thing she needed and then the nurses, their rude comments and arrogance would top it off. The hospital had nothing, no toilet paper, no change of sheets or any sanitary goods, so when you bleed after your operation, if you don’t have pads, you stay in them sheets until they feel like its ready to be changed. Actually, a friend (who was from this town) who I had never really spoken to before and definitely didn’t expect anything from found out about the situation, and called her cousin to come, she brought me everything I’d needed for the hospital and she would come visit me whenever she could, she was breath of fresh air, someone who I will never forget. I suppose even in something bad comes something good.

Then was recovery, which wasn’t easy, especially since Layla would hang on me wanting me to lift her, but having my partners family around for this period made it much easier.  We actually came back to Australia 1.5 months post op, and last month I went for a check up as I had some concerns. My wound was finally closed (it had been leaking for the past 3 months) but what worried me more was I had lost all feeling in my lower abdomen, so my doctor referred me to a nerve specialist who diagnosed me with neuropraxia, a transient loss of nerve conduction. Even though the time frame expects numbness to disappear within 12 weeks of surgery, it can take up to a year, if nothing has returned after a year it is expected it will never return, just the news you hope for after everything.

Was I thankful, obviously, but I just had no idea what I felt, even 4 months post ruptured ectopic, I still don’t know to this day how I’m supposed to feel, everything changed in 1 day. Within 1 day I was faced with a life threatening emergency where I almost died, then 10 days of treatment, loss of time with my loved ones, loss of feeling in my lower abdomen, loss of fertility all over again, loss of my organs, the loss of my baby and concerns about the future, even if we were happy with just having Layla, we always had the option to have more children via IVF, but not anymore.

*Trigger; picture of my cut (5 months post surgery) I cannot believe I am about to post this, literally I’ve added this photo and deleted it a 1000 times now, no-one asides from my partner has ever seen this. To be honest, this is probably the best it’s ever looked. No filter or editing and taken against the window with natural lighting. The holes under the cut are from the stitches since my scar wasn’t healing properly the stitches couldn’t be removed. The scar above is the incision made for the drain.

I would love to hear about other ectopic stories, how do you feel down the line? What helped you cope?

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