In the end of August 2012, Mal and Jimmy were granted their greatest wish--they found out they were pregnant! They had been married almost three years and had been told due to polycystic ovarian syndrome that Mal had about a 10% chance of getting pregnant. They left it to God and hoped it would happen. Mal's pregnancy was relatively uneventful and they enjoyed preparing for Nora's arrival--namely with the most adorable Dr. Seuss room you could imagine.
In March of 2013 Mal was put on bed rest due to Pregnancy Induced Hypertension. She was induced April 16th, 2013 at 37 weeks as a safety precaution because her blood pressure had become a danger. Mal's labor became complicated and Nora had the cord wrapped around her neck. She was in serious distress and losing heart tones. She was stuck on the pelvic bone, which is called shoulder dystocia. Nora was delivered via vaccuum, completely blue, lifeless, and unresponsive. Thankfully, the medical team standing by after the code was able to resuscitate her. She was immediately rushed to the NICU to help her continue to breathe.
Mal then learned that her injury was extensive. She had suffered a fourth degree tear, and Nora had torn completely through her vaginal rectal wall. Her blood pressure was out of control, and she had lost half of her blood volume.
The next morning Mal and Jimmy were informed by the pediatrician that Nora had also sustained a serious injury to the nerves of her neck, shoulder, and spine from her delivery. Her injury is called a brachial plexus injury or, specifically, Erbs Palsy. Erbs Palsy is damage to the nerves from the traumatic delivery. It left Nora's left shoulder completely limp and paralyzed. These injuries have required physical therapy and occupational therapy from nearly day one. Nora has seen great improvement because of Mal and Jimmy's diligence with her therapy. She can use her arm although she cannot lift overhead, straighten it, swing it, or turn her palm out. In addition, one arm is slightly shorter than the other. Most importantly she is functioning, flourishing, and after all screening it is unlikely she suffers from cerebral palsy.
Immediately following the birth, Mal was in a lot of pain. She found out that she had a rectovaginal fistula, and would need rectal reconstruction to regain continence about eight weeks post-partum. A fistula is an unnatural tract between two organs. It's very uncommon in the United States. It's more prevalent in countries that have no health care or access to c-sections.
Mal had to fear that she would lose continence in public, so she was basically forced to stay home. In addition, she was in constant pain and unable to walk for long periods of time or do any sort of lifting. At this point, it was obvious that Mal was not going to be able to return to work as planned.
She had her first surgery at Loyola Medical Center with a doctor with extensive experience in this area in October 2013. They attempted to repair the fistula, the surrounding tissue, and reconstruct the rectum so she could be continent again. She was in the hospital six days. The fistula surgery was unsuccessful, but the reconstruction was successful. The doctor said the tissue was actually falling apart in his hands when he tried to repair the fistula because it was so damaged from Nora's delivery.
Each attempt to repair the fistula had to be spaced out to make the tissue healthy again. The next attempt was Mal and Jimmy's anniversary, 12/31/13. She spent one day in the hospital and after she had not gone to the bathroom in 24 hours, was rushed to the emergency room, and had to have a urinary catheter for 14 days.
Shortly after the new year, Mal realized her symptoms of the fistula had returned. She returned to the doctor and he recommended a colostomy, two days later on 1/17/2014, to help save and repair the tissue. She would also have a colostomy bag. Following the surgery, she had a life threatening infection and was in the hospital 11 days.
After this experience the fistula still didn't heal, but had gotten smaller. Naturally, she was petrified to have another surgery and couldn't leave Nora, so the surgeon decided it was best to give Mal a 4-6 month break from surgery. She was allowed to return to work on light duty. Mal tried to resume a normal life, working, taking care of Nora, and trying to get healthy.
By July 2014, Mal had developed a hernia the size of a watermelon in the center of her stomach causing bowel blockages and numerous ER visits. She was told she needed to stop working and stay off her feet if possible to prevent these blockages from becoming more regular and the hernia growing.
Mal had another attempt to repair the fistula in August 2014. It was semi-successful. Mal must be placed under anesthesia when routine procedures are done just to check the fistula. She suffers from PTSD because of the trauma of Nora's birth and its aftermath.
On December 30th her doctor did a third exam under anesthesia and said the fistula had healed.
In January of 2015, Mal was unable to travel to Jamaica for her sister's wedding because of her injuries. She had to remain close to the hospital in case of emergency, not to mention the financial stress her family was under made it too difficult for them to go. Obviously this was extremely sad for Mal, as Steph is her only sibling.
Today, February 17th, Mal was scheduled to reverse the colostomy and repair her hernia. She arrived at the hospital scared but relieved that this ordeal was almost over. She was given an epidural for post-operative pain control and put under anesthesia.
However, Mal woke up with a hernia and an ostomy bag as a nurse explained that the surgery could not be performed because the fistula was still present.
Her future is now uncertain, as she does not know what the next step will be.
At the beginning of this ordeal, Mal and Jimmy lost their apartment due to the loss of income suffered with Mal not working. They are very blessed to have the constant support of her parents, whom they now live with, but obviously it is a struggle to raise their toddler in her parents' home. Jimmy works 6 days per week at 2 jobs. He is employed by Schwans Home Service and Grundy Area Vocational Center.
Mal and Jimmy have both suffered greatly and missed out on so many important moments throughout Nora's first two years. Jimmy spends most of his time working to support them, and Mal has spent much of her time striving to recover.
They are fantastic parents through and through who truly long to enjoy the simple moments with their daughter.
Many of you most likely do not know this entire story because Mal does not complain. She has remained positive and upbeat, funny and caring, despite these basically unbearable circumstances. She is always willing to chat with a friend in need or offer whatever she can to help those around her. Mal is always sympathetic to those who are going through anything at all, despite the fact that she could easily lament that she "has it worse."
We ask that you consider helping to support this great family in their time of need and please know, that they would and always do, the same for those around them. They truly deserve some peace of mind and relief.
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