Two 'miracles' after traumatic birth
Friends, faith and top-notch medical care leave father with two ‘miracles’ after traumatic birth.
It was a question Tom Wright had both longed for and dreaded. As he looked into his wife’s confused eyes, answering her question by listing a string of harrowing moments that they’d struggled through for the past four weeks, he knew it was a sign that she had turned a corner.
A month earlier, the two were set to become parents. They had a C-section scheduled the next day. But that night, Molly Wright became sick. Headaches, chills, nausea and vomiting interrupted the couple’s last hours alone, convincing Tom to take his wife to Sky Ridge Medical Center early.
At the hospital, after discovering that Molly’s blood pressure was dangerously high, the medical team hurriedly prepared for the C-section, calling Molly’s doctor in early. But Molly didn’t make it to the operating table before suffering a severe seizure, turning what should have been the couple’s joyous time into something intensely serious.
The tables turn
“The next thing I know, I’m meeting with a minister,” Tom recalls, as he shares his story three months later on a Sunday afternoon in his Parker home.
Tom, who couldn’t be in the room with Molly because of the urgency, says he was scared. But then Molly’s OB/GYN, Dr. Kathleen Watt, hustled in and stopped when she saw Tom. “She looked at me and said, ‘Tom, everything is going to be just fine.’ ” Then she turned and hurried away to deliver his baby.
That was the first of many times during the next six weeks that medical providers instilled their confidence in him, Tom says. Both his wife and baby’s lives were in jeopardy, as Molly had developed eclampsia, a rare but serious condition characterized by high blood pressure, protein in the urine and seizures. The disorder can starve the fetus of oxygen and have numerous effects on Mom.
“But the baby came out just fine,” Tom says of Nolan Matthew Wright, his first name a testament to his dad’s baseball obsession (for Hall-of-Famer Nolan Ryan), his middle name a sign of the couple’s struggle and faith (it means gift from God). “The first time they put him in the warmer, he grabbed and squeezed my finger,” says Tom, who stood recalling the story in his kitchen, sporting a backward baseball cap and a football jersey and cradling Nolan in the crook of his arm like a receiver guarding a football. But the touching father/son moment in the hospital was overshadowed.
That night, Molly’s condition deteriorated. Tests revealed she’d suffered a stroke, and that she had some internal abdominal bleeding from the birth, likely compounded by a pre-existing blood-clotting disorder. Soon, her kidneys and liver began shutting down, and Molly was put on life support in intensive care. For Tom, it was the beginning of many weeks of feeling torn, not knowing where he should be: with his sick wife or newborn son.
“That was the most critical point of what was going on with Molly, and I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with Nolan,” Tom says. But Sky Ridge kept Nolan for five days, which turned out to be almost a blessing for Tom. Nurses doted over his baby, and Administration permitted Molly’s mother to be with him, really making the family feel special, Tom says.
It wasn’t until the end of the first week, when her liver finally started to recover, that Tom’s fear of losing his wife eased somewhat. Doctors, who Tom says stayed positive and “pushed the envelope” with Molly’s care, performed emergency surgery more than once and plasmapheresis (a blood purification procedure) 14 times. Molly, who was hospitalized for six weeks, remembers none of it.
A tough journey
“The hardest part was being so confused,” says Molly, who was wearing an orange Broncos hoodie and jeans, ready for a football Sunday with her family. “She suffered more than one seizure on top of the stroke,” Tom explains, “so it was like a double shock to her brain.” Once she “came to,” Molly would talk to people, hold Nolan, and do what she was told, but forget it all the next day, Tom says. Her first weeks of motherhood were basically lost.
Molly chokes up when she talks about how hard the ordeal has been on her husband, who even four months later was still Nolan’s primary caregiver — and back to work full time as a special-education teacher. “He had to orchestrate everything,” says Molly, also a teacher, but still unable to return to the P.E. instructor position. “He had to find somebody to watch the baby. He had to find somebody to watch the dog,” she says of Wrigley, a chocolate-lab mix (named after the baseball stadium) who was keeping a close eye on his new prized possession: Nolan.
“But she’s getting better and better and doing more and more,” Tom says of Molly, who lost 80 pounds during her illness and is easily tired, especially after dialysis, which she gets four times a week. The couple remains hopeful her kidney function will return and are try to stay positive overall, with Tom calling both his wife and his son “miracles.”
A happy ending
“If someone starts to tell a story about my time in the hospital, I stop them and say: Only if it’s funny,” says Molly, who Tom says maintained her sense of humor throughout the ordeal and did provide some comical moments, including uttering her first words after nurses took her breathing tube: “Watch out! Here I come!”
Molly says she’s humbled by the goodness in people. “From Tom, to the nurses, to my friends and co-workers, to people I’ve never met before,” she says. “Nolan’s four months old, and I don’t think we’ve ever bought a diaper. People are just so generous.” Her “kids” from school organized a fundraiser and made an inspirational book for her. Many people helped with food and other chores. And everybody prayed, Tom says. “That first Sunday, we had prayer chains going on all around the country.” Nolan helped his mom recover, too, as nurses and Tom made sure, even during that first week, that mother and son shared plenty of skin-to-skin time.
The night after Molly looked up and asked Tom “what happened,” he wrote on his blog for family and friends. It was hard to tell her all of the bad things that she had gone through, he wrote. But it was great to talk about the new family they now shared, he added. “I told her, ‘When you are ready, I will show you pictures of your day-old son with his head on your heart, loving his mama more than anything in the world.’ It was then that her tears started to flow, and we embraced for the hug I had been waiting for since Nolan was born.’