By Alyce Collins
THIS WOMAN knew something was wrong when she experienced blurred vision and sickness before a game of tennis but she had no idea that this was due to an E.COLI infection that had already KILLED her unborn child and was quickly COMING FOR HER.
Teacher Nicole Galipeault (31) from Ontario, Canada, was overjoyed when she found out she was pregnant in April 2018 followed by four months of sheer happiness, until a fatal infection occurred in her second trimester.
For the first trimester of her pregnancy, Nicole was perfectly fit and healthy, only noticing slight fatigue. However, on July 31, 2018, Nicole attended a midwife appointment during which the midwife struggled to find the baby’s heartbeat, but due to the early nature of the appointment, this wasn’t considered too important.
Following her appointment, Nicole was on her way to play tennis with her husband, Matt, but as she went outside her vision became blurred and everything began spinning around her. Moments later, Nicole began shaking uncontrollably and her temperature dropped substantially.
Overnight, Nicole was vomiting constantly and knew that she needed to get to the hospital. While Matt drove them to the nearest hospital, Nicole worryingly began having contractions in the car.
Doctors carried out an emergency X-ray when they saw that Nicole was trying to give birth to her baby naturally, and the infection became apparent. Nicole was soon taken to surgery where doctors removed the foetus and took cultures to be examined.
After her surgery, Nicole was placed in isolation in the Intensive Care Unit as testing found that the infection was E. coli in her uterus, which had killed the baby, and very nearly Nicole herself.
“I pretty much found out I was pregnant right away with an early detector test in April,” said Nicole.
“I took so many tests because we said we would wait to have kids until after Matt completed his two-year master’s course, and then we’d been trying for a couple of months before I got pregnant.
“The first few months of my pregnancy were quite easy. I was never physically ill; my main symptom was just being exhausted and having a lack of energy.
“In July I woke up feeling great and I went to my midwife appointment. The only thing that was out of the ordinary was that she couldn’t find a heartbeat, but we just left thinking nothing of it.
“Once we were home and I stepped outside to play tennis, my vision went all weird. Everything around me felt like it was spinning, and it really concerned me.
“I knew I couldn’t go play tennis, so I went back inside and about 10 minutes later I started shaking uncontrollably. My body temperature dropped so I was freezing cold, I was lightheaded, I had stomach pain and began vomiting every hour.
“I woke up in the night and knew I was having a miscarriage, so I woke Matt up and he drove us to the hospital.
“The pain in my abdomen had worsened and I was hunched over, having contractions but also feeling pain from the infection.
“The doctors did an ultrasound at first to verify that there was no heartbeat and then they decided to do a chest X-ray after I was trying to pass the baby naturally for six hours.
“After labouring for so many hours I started having trouble breathing, so I was given oxygen, but it wasn’t helping. Then the chest X-ray showed fluid was building up around my lungs which they said was a sign of infection, so I was taken to surgery.
“I had a dilation and evacuation surgery to remove the foetus and they took cultures for the lab to determine what infection I had.
“I had to have blood infusions, vitamin K infusions, an intravenous drip for antibiotics and I was on a breathing tube for four days.
“I had a surgery to try and remove some of the infection which had spread to my pelvis, but I ended up coming out of that surgery with a drain in the top of my bum which I had in me for a month.
“When I came out of the surgery, my family was all waiting for me and the doctors warned them not to be shocked or afraid but the infection I had was in my uterus, so it killed the baby. We were told that if I hadn’t got to the hospital that night that I too would have died.
“We were so emotional but also confused because no one could provide us with answers about how I got the infection or how it got into my uterus. We were told it was just a series of unfortunate events and it was a very rare case.
“I stayed in the ICU for 11 days and then another five days in the short-term care ward. Since then I’ve had countless internal ultrasounds and CT scans to check on the status of the infection.”
Nicole was only declared free of the E. coli infection as of November 2018, three months after it killed her unborn baby. Although it is still a very difficult experience for Nicole to share, she hopes to share her gratitude for the help she received from hospital staff and to encourage others to seek attention when they need it.
“It was a traumatic situation because we were told many times that if we hadn’t come into the hospital because of the miscarriage and I continued to be sick at home, then the infection would have killed me within the following day. We’re both very grateful for the care I received,” said Nicole.
“The loss of the baby hit later on. It’s devastating to carry a child for half a pregnancy and to be excited for the due date and a new life, and then to have it taken away from you in a matter of hours.
“It’s been hard because we haven’t been able to try and get pregnant again right away since I had a lot of healing to do.
“E. coli has brought on a lot of pain in my pelvis and stomach, meaning a lot of hospital visits, CT scans and three months of antibiotics. It’s made me much more aware of my body and any little symptom I feel can scare me now.
“I have developed anxiety because of this traumatic event as I’m anxious about being away from home or not near a hospital.
“Life can change in a second and I’m very grateful for how advanced medicine is now. A woman’s body is very complex, and I will never fully understand it, but you know your own body better than anyone else so if you feel like something isn’t right then you should seek medical attention.
“My symptoms posed those of food poisoning or the flu, but it ended up being the E. coli infection.”