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'Miracle' birth: Only 1 in 5 women survive rare condition

6:07 PM, Nov 28, 2011   |    comments
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Dianna Cillessen had given birth to her second child, Beau, at Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge.

"He was born at 6:25 a.m. The delivery went perfect. Like clockwork. He was very healthy," Cillessen said.

Beau may have been healthy, but Cillessen was far from it.

"A lot of nurses started coming in the room. I asked one of them what was going on. She said, 'We are trying to stop your bleeding,'" she said.

At the time, doctors didn't know what was wrong. Later, they discovered she had an amniotic fluid embolism which is where amniotic fluid enters the blood stream and the body thinks it's an infection and attacks it.

"One in 80,000 women get it, and only one in every five live," Cillessen said.

It's so rare that most doctors will never see it in their careers.

"There's no signs. There's no warning. They don't know how to detect it. That's what's scary about this disease. It can happen during a woman's first birth or fifth," Cillessen said.

"This was by far the worst post-partum hemorrhage I have ever seen," Dr. Jennifer Freeman, Cillessen's doctor, said. "Everything we would do during normal circumstances wasn't working. It was very scary."

Cillessen was rushed into surgery. She had no pulse several times.

"We knew her life was in jeopardy. She got her last rights. I was terrified," Bret Cillessen, her husband, said.

"When I made her hysterectomy incision and she didn't bleed, which means she had no more blood, that was a very scary time for me," Freeman said.

"The anesthesiologist said it was like working on a dead person," Dianna Cillessen said.

The average body carries 12 units of blood. Dianna Cillessen received 41.

"I didn't think she was going to survive, to be honest with you," Freeman said.

Bret Cillessen was in the waiting room with their 5-year-old son and healthy newborn baby.

"I've never seen such intense prayer. I think someone up there decided I shouldn't be raising these two boys alone," Bret Cillessen said.

Whether it was prayer, a great medical team, or something else altogether, Dianna Cillessen pulled through.

"When you look at the statistics, you could say that probably a miracle occurred that day," Freeman said.

For the Cillessens, this holiday season is all about giving thanks and being grateful.

"Being a mom is a gift. Having a second chance at life, that's something else. I owe a lot of people my life. I've had a lot of heroes. I wouldn't be here without them," Dianna Cillessen said.

Fifty percent of women who have an Amniotic Fluid Embolism don't survive the first hour, the other 30 percent don't survive the blood loss and if they do, they often suffer brain damage from loss of oxygen and blood.

Dianna Cillessen survived it all - and has no permanent damage.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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