One of Michelle Corsbie’s biggest fears came to life when she was rushed to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) shortly after delivering her newborn son.

“I always thought that it might be me one day. My biggest fear was dying in childbirth, and then it was real life. My fear was unlocked,” she says.

Michelle’s journey began when Family Care Midwives referred her to Mackenzie Health’s Maternal Fetal Medicine Clinic, one of just a handful of clinics of its kind in an Ontario community hospital. Dedicated to women experiencing high-risk pregnancies, Michelle was doing routine ultrasounds to monitor the weight of her baby. After seeing the baby’s stomach was measuring too small, the new mom-to-be was prepared to be induced early.

At almost 38 weeks pregnant, Michelle delivered baby Julien on November 18 in the Woman and Child Program at Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital. What should have been one of life’s most precious moments, embracing her newborn son, was instead a memory of seeing bright white lights and feeling the touch of someone holding her hand and petting her head before waking up in the ICU.

“I was not prepared to be an ICU mom. Let alone be the person who’s in a life-or-death situation,” she says.

Michelle had a retained placenta followed by postpartum hemorrhage, which accounts for life-threatening complications, including infection and excessive blood loss. After Michelle’s midwife tried removing the placenta, followed by the obstetrician on call, Michelle was rushed to the Operating Room (OR).

“I was touch-and-go. My vitals and hemoglobin were low, and I lost a lot of blood. I had seven blood transfusions, and if the bleeding continued, I would have had to have my uterus removed. Thankfully, my body did not let that happen,” she says.

Michelle didn’t have an obstetrician at this time but was put under Dr. Fady Shehata’s care right away.

“I had done what is expected to be done from any obstetrician who would have been on call that day, but it motivates us a lot to know that patients appreciated the care they received,” says Dr. Shehata.

He explains it was important to continue following up with Michelle to make sure she recovered well with no long- or short-term complications.

“The availability of the birthing unit OR on the same floor as the Labour, Delivery, Recovery Postpartum Unit, and the nurses and tools used to care for Michelle, was critical. This includes the availability of blood and blood products for transfusion, respiratory technician and anesthesia for resuscitation,” he says.

Thanks to a strong clinical team, advanced resources and a facility with private rooms to support patients like Michelle, he adds, “all these resources are available for our community to make sure their pregnancy and delivery experience is the best.”

Dr. Shehata expresses his appreciation for donor dollars which fund spacious ORs that can accommodate large resuscitative teams, surgical tools and equipment used in the procedure, ICU room and equipment to make sure Michelle recovered well and postpartum private rooms to ensure an uninterrupted recovery.

Despite the fear and the loneliness of being away from her family during what she explains were the longest three days of her life, Michelle recalls the comfort and care she received from the Mackenzie Health team was unmatched.

“He [Dr. Shehata] came to visit me when he wasn’t even on call or working. Even after I got discharged to the Labour, Delivery, Recovery Postpartum Unit, he explained everything to me and came on his day off to personally discharge me from ICU,” she says.

Michelle adds her family made the right choice to deliver their son at Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital after recently moving to Vaughan.

Looking out of her living room window Michelle mentions she can see the hospital in the distance. “They call it state-of-the-art for a reason,” she said with a smile. “The little things like staff setting up a Zoom call for me to see my son or nurses telling me stories about their own kids, didn’t make me feel robotic. I felt like I mattered.”

Thanks to smart bedside tablets, Michelle was able to see her baby boy from the ICU, MyChart allowed Michelle and her caregivers to stay up to date with her medical information, and spacious, private rooms allowed Michelle to recover with her family. And without ever wanting to be an ICU patient again, she jokingly adds the patient beds were some of the comfiest she has ever been in.

From the moment Michelle and her family entered the hospital, Michelle shares the doctors, nurses and volunteers were by their side every step of the way. Staff in the Woman and Child Program supported Michelle’s husband in her absence and provided extra care to her family while she recovered in the ICU.

Happy to be home and enjoying her next chapter as a new family of four, Michelle says she will always remember the faces that carried her through her journey to recovery.

“I wouldn’t be alive today without the people at Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital. They were empathetic, kind and simply human,” she says. “At a time when hospitals are busy and at capacity, I wasn’t just a number. It didn’t matter who I was or what I was doing, I put my trust in them, and I always felt like I had someone advocating for me. I never felt left behind.”