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Published on Jan 1, 2014
ILLINOIS -- A mother says she was convinced she was going to die while delivering her second child. And, according to doctors, she was right. Stephanie Arnold treasures these quiet moments with her baby, Jacob. But they are moments almost lost to her forever. Last May, within seconds of Jacob's birth, Arnold coded on the operating table. My heart stopped, all electrical signals went to zero, she said. Arnold essentially died, she went 37 seconds without any vitals, according to her doctors. Arnold's OB-GYN, Dr. Julie Levitt, and the anesthesiologist diagnosed an amniotic fluid embolism, or AFE -- an unpredictable, rare condition where amniotic fluid or fetal material enters the mother's bloodstream and triggers a life-threatening reaction. I'd only read about it. About 40 percent of women don't even survive the initial insult, Levitt said. Arnold beat the odds, not only surviving, but doing so without any permanent damage, despite spending six days in a coma and weeks in the hospital. Even more amazing, her pre-delivery concerns she was in trouble. It was so raw. It was the feeling that I had was I was going to die. There was no question, Arnold said. Arnold even met with an anesthesiologist prior to her scheduled c-section. And because of that conversation, she changed up the anesthesia order to include more blood and more monitors. And that is 100 percent what saved my life, Arnold said. Those conversations, and Arnold's brush with death, have been learning experiences for everyone. Don't be afraid to express what your fears are to your physician. And, if you're met with a dismissive comment, bring it up again, she said. I take deeper breathes, I save every single moment with my family.Doctors say other patients who have had an AFE have also described feelings of doom prior to delivery. There is no way to predict the eventual condition, but risk factors may include advanced maternal age and placenta problems during pregnancy.