April 30, 2012 at 11:34 AM ET
From the very first prenatal visit it was clear there was something wrong with Gina Walker’s pregnancy.
“They couldn’t find a heartbeat,” she told TODAY’s Ann Curry. “And they told me that I most likely had miscarried.” She hadn’t – but the complications continued. “Every week there was a new diagnosis. Every week it was something new. I had blood clots, hemorrhages.”
Walker eventually gave birth to a healthy baby girl, but she nearly lost her life in the process. It took almost 35 gallons of blood and seven days in an induced coma to save the San Antonio woman who is now being called the “miracle mom.”
For months doctors were bewildered by the perplexing array of complications. Then, at 20 weeks, Walker’s physicians figured out what was plaguing her pregnancy: a rare, potentially life-threatening condition called placenta percreta.
“It’s a condition where the placenta can implant into the lower portion of the uterus and can invade the bladder,” said Dr. Jason Parker, one of Walker’s doctors and an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in San Antonio.
Walker was then told the scary statistic: One in seven women with placenta percreta doesn’t make it.
“There’s not a lot you can research on the condition, so when you hear statistics like that it’s very scary,” she told Curry. “I prayed a lot.”
On February 15 of this year, Gina Walker went in to the hospital to deliver her baby by C-section.
The delivery went fine, but afterwards things started to quickly go wrong. Although Parker and his team knew that the condition could cause hemorrhaging, they were stunned by how much blood Walker was losing. She eventually went through 35 gallons of blood -- the average woman's body contains just over one gallon of blood.
“When we had delivered the baby, we encountered bleeding that was more than we had expected,” he told TODAY. “Going into surgery, our anesthesia doctors were informed of this and began immediately transfusing the blood products we had available.”
Sitting in the waiting room, Walker’s husband, Dustin, watched as the blood began to arrive.
“I started noticing cooler after cooler of blood that had my wife’s name on it,” he told TODAY. “You know, up and down the hallways, constantly. That’s when I started to get worried.”
The whole hospital was working to save Walker. "We knew that we had an OB patient up there," said Sherrie Walker, transfusion medicine manager at University Hospital. "We knew there was a baby involved. ... Everybody was working so hard and so fast to get this done."
Knowing that Gina might need transfusions, Dustin had reached out to friends before she went in to the hospital to ask them to donate blood. The response was overwhelming.
“A lot of our friends took the idea of donating blood and passed it along to all their friends,” he told Curry. “Around the country, they go the word out. And we had several blood drives.”
Even people as far away as Canada offered to donate blood.
Gina was amazed that so many people were willing to help her.
“I don’t know how many people [donated blood],” she told Curry. “I really couldn’t tell you. I just know that it spread quickly and there were people from everywhere.”
Gina’s response to the outpouring of help?
“Thank you,” she said. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
“It was truly a blessing that everyone went out and did that. And I thank God that there are good people out there that will take the time to go do that because it saves lives.”
Because of that support, Dustin Walker has a beautiful little girl and healthy wife with barely a sign of the traumatic delivery that could have led to brain injury, paralysis or even death.
The episode has changed the way Gina looks at life.
“I don’t take anything for granted anymore, whatsoever,” she told TODAY. “Small stuff, I don’t sweat it. Because any day – it can be your last. It was a miracle. It truly was.”
Linda Carroll is a regular contributor to msnbc.com and TODAY.com. She is co-author of the new book "The Concussion Crisis: Anatomy of a Silent Epidemic”
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