When nurses rushed Carol Decker into an emergency C-section, she had no idea that it would be the last time she would see her husband, Scott. She had no inkling that her next conscious memories would come three weeks later, filled with hazy terror as intubation tubes left her temporarily voiceless and doctors amputated her lower legs, her hand, and her finger. She had no way of understanding that one moment would change her life, her family, and her relationship with God forever.
“I remember being in agonizing pain and having a fever at 103.7° F that we couldn’t get down,” Carol says of June 10, 2008—the day she began having contractions only 33 weeks into her pregnancy. With flu-like symptoms, Carol arrived at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, Washington, confused by the early labor pains. The sharp smell of antiseptic mingled with the overwhelming labor pains as the medical staff pulled Scott into the corner of the room, talking in hushed voices. “The room just went silent,” she remembers. That’s when Carol learned she would need to undergo an emergency C-section. “It was just like the clock tower crashed, the glass went everywhere, and time stopped. As they wheeled me back, I never thought that would be the last time I would see my husband’s face.” For 20 days, time did stop for Carol, who remained in a drug-induced coma following the C-section as doctors frantically worked to save her life.
A Miraculous Meeting
Moments after the birth of her second daughter, Safiya, Carol was transferred to the ICU, and Safiya was whisked to the NICU. Within hours, doctors approached Scott with Carol’s diagnosis: sepsis—one word that did nothing to portray the life-threatening and life-altering struggles the family had yet to face. Doctors discovered Carol’s fever had been caused by strep and pneumonia, but the natural chemicals released in her bloodstream to fight the infection triggered inflammation and a cascade of complications, causing her body to shut down and begin decaying from the inside out. Within days, Carol’s kidneys stopped functioning, her heart failed to pump enough blood to her extremities, and blood clots began forming throughout her vessels, killing patches of skin. Fevers as high as 106.9° F racked Carol’s body as blood trickled from her mouth. Carol retains few memories of the first three weeks she fought to survive. “It was almost like I had amnesia for 20 days when I was in the drug-induced coma,” she says. Against the backdrop of vague blackness, pain, anxiety, and confusion, one memory stands out crisply in Carol’s mind—the night she met her newborn daughter for the first time. When Carol emerged from the heavy confines of unconsciousness, she became agitated, searching the room for Safiya even as intubation tubes kept her from speaking. Scott understood, however, knowing his wife would want to see their new daughter. Fearing this might be the only chance Carol had of meeting Safiya in this life, nurses in the ICU arranged for the preemie to be taken to her mother.
Carol's husband, Scott, holding Safiya, their newborn daughter
Scott introduced their daughter, and Carol remembers the velvety feel of Safiya’s skin against her own, delicate eyelashes brushing her cheek, and small fingers reaching for her nose and mouth. Then came a miraculous moment for the mother, who would later discover that sepsis had left her blind. “Tears fell as [Scott] brought us together,” Carol writes in her book. “Cheek to cheek. Mother to daughter. Soul to soul. The image of a dark-haired baby filled my mind. Whether it was really her or only my brain’s creation, I don’t know. And it doesn’t matter. It was enough.”