A Texas mother is speaking out after she lost both of her feet and part of her left hand to sepsis after suffering a serious pregnancy complication.
Callie Colwick, 30, of McKinney, found out she and her husband, Kevin, 30, were expecting their second child in November 2016. But at 15 weeks, Callie began experiencing heavy bleeding — what she would later learn was a sign of the high-risk pregnancy complication placenta accreta, which “occurs when the placenta grows too deeply into the uterine wall,” as per the Mayo Clinic.
In a healthy pregnancy, the placenta detaches from the uterine wall following childbirth. But with placenta accreta, part or all of the placenta remains attached, which can cause “severe blood loss after delivery,” according to the clinic. Aside from heavy vaginal bleeding, the condition can also lead to premature birth. Most women who are diagnosed with placenta accreta during pregnancy require an early Caesarean section delivery followed by a hysterectomy.
Colwick went to the hospital where she was informed that her unborn son, Quinn, could be born at any time and would likely not survive.
“They put me in the pregnancy wing. Here we were in this room, surrounded by women giving birth and babies crying and we were told that Quinn had no chance of survival and we were just waiting to give birth to him,” she recalled to the British news agency South West News Service (SWNS). “It was a solemn few weeks.”
“It was a terrifying few weeks with nothing to do in the hospital but just wait,” she added.
Eventually, doctors induced labor. Quinn was stillborn, weighing just half a pound.
“They broke my waters and he was born. Quinn was too tiny to survive — he went straight to heaven,” she said.
“I was fading in and out of consciousness [after the stillbirth],” she continued. “I wasn’t responsive, my eyes would roll to the back of my head and I was burning up. My fever had spiked way too high and they were packing ice onto me.”
“My uterus was hemorrhaging blood,” she added, noting her condition was so dire a trauma doctor was flown in from Dallas to help with her case. “Doctors were pumping blood into me as soon as it was flowing out.”
“My husband was stuck between mourning the loss of his son and making all these medical decisions.”
Colwick then developed septic shock in her uterus. The infection later spread throughout her body.
“My world went black. That infection overrode my entire body,” she said. “They had to take out my uterus. The sepsis shut down my kidneys and my lungs so I was on a breathing machine.”
Two months later, severely damaged tissue in both of Colwick’s feet and part of her left hand left doctors no choice but to amputate. Her legs were removed below the knee as was her left thumb and index finger.
“My legs were black and shriveled up, my toes looked like raisins,” she recalled. “I remember coming to, in extreme pain and confusion. My husband had to explain what happened. I had everything minus my uterus and my feet.”
In total, Colwick spent more than a year in intensive care. Finally, in March 2018, she was cleared to return home. After a battle with her insurance company, Colwick was approved for prosthetics in April 2019. She also applied for a custom wheelchair — she was unable to push a standard wheelchair herself, she said — but was denied. A stranger began a viral fundraising campaign to raise enough money for Colwick to purchase a custom wheelchair, a move the mom said changed her life.
“This generous gift from a complete stranger gives me the ability to make my home completely accessible,” she told SWNS. “It’s a lightweight custom-built chair so I can pick it up by myself. I can actually wheel myself around in it.”
Looking back on the near-death experience, Colwick, who shares her daughter, 4-year-old Kerri, with her husband, said she hopes to “help and inspire others.”
“I was 27 when this happened — no one expects a 27-year-old mom to die,” she added. “I truly feel like I am living on borrowed time now.”