One of the things I have loved to do ever since I joined the #MatExp campaign is to share birth stories on this blog. Today I am sharing the story of my friend Jen’s first birth, and this is the fourth story that Jen has kindly shared with us. Previously on this blog Jen has talked about her experience of pregnancy after birth trauma, and of how the midwives in her hospital made all the difference to her breastfeeding journey with her eldest daughter. Jen also has a story on the website for my hospital breastfeeding campaign, describing the care she received as an inpatient herself whilst breastfeeding her youngest daughter.
So we know that Jen has breastfed two little girls and has been well supported to do so. We also know that she has experience of being cared for as a pregnant woman with previous experience of birth trauma. This month Jen has bravely shared with me the full story of her first birth, so that I can now share it with you.
I’ve finally plucked up the courage to put pen to paper and write down the story about the birth of my first daughter. This story has a trigger warning and for any mums-to-be reading this please take note of the fact that what happened to me was extremely rare.
I wasn’t really bothered about having children and had told my husband when we first met as such. I’d kicked any discussion of the topic into the long grass by telling him I definitely didn’t want children before I was thirty and when that date came and went, although I was coming round to the idea that I probably would have children, the alarm bells of my biological clock were definitely on silent. It was later on that year, after a particularly long and difficult day working away in Paris that it dawned on me that there was never going to be a right time. There would always be that next career step which would defer any decision, having a baby would be a financial hit whatever your money circumstances and there was a real risk that whilst I waited for the ‘broody’ feeling to finally hit, my husband (who is ten years older than me) would have gone off the idea and declared himself too old to start. I rang my husband from my hotel room…’I’ve made a decision, I think we should start trying for a baby.’ His response? ‘Are you pissed?’ In fairness it was half midnight French time but I swear I hadn’t touched a drop…ok, I lie, I’d shared a bottle of red with my colleague (when in France eh?) but definitely nowhere near enough for me to be making rash decisions that I’d go on to regret.
We decided not to tell anyone we were trying. I think my parents had half given up on being grandparents, being tagged as the ‘career one’ coupled with my diagnosis of endometriosis a few years previously they had put all bets on my sister…and she was even older than me! Roll on to the end of March 2013 and my mum (whose 60th birthday meal was scheduled for the week after) called to tell me she had shingles. My husband kept on banging on about me doing a test which I thought was ridiculous as we’d only been trying for a couple of months….but finally, to prove him wrong I stomped upstairs with a kit then was completely taken aback when the second line appeared.
I had a pretty easy pregnancy relatively speaking. The standard waves of nausea hampered our pre-booked walking holiday in the Lakes and the tiredness hit for me six. Having once been nicknamed ‘Tigger on Speed’ by an old boss I felt more like ‘Eeyore on sleeping tablets’ at times, but I really can’t complain. I was fit and healthy right up to the end and was still doing 4 mile walks with the dog just a few days before I gave birth…ok maybe more of a 4 mile waddle than walk!
The day before it happened it dawned on me that if I went into labour at 10/11pm say, I wouldn’t have had any rest and so decided it might be a good idea to schedule in some daytime naps. I emailed my husband at work telling him not to fret if he rang and I didn’t answer and went for a power kip. After he’d come home and we’d eaten I declared that I wanted to get an early night and at half midnight I felt a popping sensation and woke up. I nudged my husband, ‘I think my waters have gone’ I whispered. ‘Are you sure?’ he replied. I got up and it was like Niagara Falls (thankfully we had wooden floorboards), ‘well it’s either that or I’ve just pissed myself really badly’ I responded. We rang the hospital and started to get ready to go in. After nagging my husband for days to get his bag packed what followed was me sitting calmly on the bed whilst my husband ran around in a blind panic flinging pairs of boxers and t-shirts across the room saying ‘don’t panic…it’ll be fine, er what else do you think I need?’. Then after a trip to drop the dog off at my mother-in-laws we drove to the hospital and announced our arrival.
On examination it was confirmed that my waters had indeed gone and it wasn’t that I was suffering from severe incontinence. After being checked and all being well I was dutifully sent home armed with a checklist to follow . ‘Don’t have sexual intercourse’ was the instruction that stuck in my mind…that was the last thing on my mind at that point. Seriously, who when their waters break think that sex may be a good idea? Oh and to impart some words of wisdom to any mums to be….if your waters break don’t put jeans on. It was fine taking them off but a nightmare to put back on again!
My contractions had started before we got home and within a few hours were regular and increasing in intensity. After timing them and confirming that they were within 5 minutes and lasting for over a minute we rang up again and I went back in.
I pretty much became addicted to gas and air and spent several hours leaning over a birthing ball rocking from side to side as that was the only comfortable position I could find and I was feeling rather sick (and being sick). Prior to D Day I’d loaded up the laptop with lots of photos from our various peak bagging trips in the Lake District. Almost all had Gus (our Labrador) beaming away and the thought behind it was that I would use these as images and memories to focus on during labour….seeing each contraction as climbing to a summit. In reality I spent most of the time with my eyes closed not saying a word and was extremely irritated when I heard the midwife ask where the photos had been taken and my husband deciding to quiz me on which fell was which….not only did that involve effort to open my eyes and speak but for goodness sake…he’d been there too!
We had a student midwife with us, something I’d originally been reluctant to have as I’m a very private person and really didn’t relish the idea of any more people than absolutely necessary being in attendance. However after having several student midwives at my antenatal appointments I realised that if everyone refused then where would that leave us? Only three weeks into training I did feel sorry for her as each time she went to monitor my baby I can distinctly remember thinking that I should probably move to help her get round to it but each time deciding that it really was far too much effort to do so. Poor lady had to struggle with the heart monitor around my huge belly as I stubbornly stayed put.
I knew that the average was 1cm per hour and 2 hours of pushing and so after being measured as 4cm at ~9am I’d geared myself up for a 5pm delivery. Yes I know that this is only average but I’m a statistics and process kind of person and so having a rough idea of what to expect was important to me. At about 12 o’clock I looked at the clock thinking that at least half an hour must have passed since my last glance….5 minutes?!?!?!?!?! Was that all? 5 sodding minutes??? Well I really couldn’t be bothered with this anymore I thought, I had to do something different or I wouldn’t be able to last through the whole labour without stronger pain relief. It was at this point that I remembered my birth plan and announced that I wanted to use the pool. The realisation that it might not be free suddenly hit me…I know it sounds daft but although I knew that pre-birth, in my labour-induced self-centred world i somehow assumed that it would automatically be available…..and ready! What was I expecting? For them to boot out some other poor lady deep in the throes of pushing so that I could have a go? And then the next ‘bombshell’…I was going to have to walk to it. No, they weren’t going to teleport me mid-contraction I was actually going to have to prise myself off that birthing ball, temporarily discard the gas and air and waddle my way to further pain relief. I’m grateful though, friends have told me that they’ve done this completely starkers so at least I was clothed!
The water really helped with the pain and I would strongly recommend a water birth to any prospective mums. Through each contraction the midwife turned on the tap so as well as the warmth of the water I got a relaxing soundtrack to go with it. The contractions were intensifying and looking once again at the clock (you’d have thought I’d have learnt my lesson) and noting that it was nearly one I told the midwife that I was really sorry but I thought I might need something stronger soon. Expecting her to leap up and drag the nearest anaesthetist in to administer an epidural she instead told me how well I was doing and it wouldn’t be long before I could go back hiking with Gus. Maybe I didn’t say it I thought and so repeated my request. At this point the student midwife pointed out that it was time to re-examine me and the midwife reassured her that it wasn’t needed as it was clear I was in the transitional phase. Transitional phase? 2 hours earlier than expected? I could do this….the end was in sight. I then came out with a slightly odd outburst for anyone not knowing the context; my sister (also pregnant with her first) and I had been discussing labour and my sister said that she thought it couldn’t be ‘that bad’ as Enid (her mother in law) had done it four times. If you had met Enid you’d understand, not a woman renowned for her sticking power or determination. So I suddenly burst out ‘C’mon, Enid’s done this four times!’ Then went back into my non-talkative, eyes closed state. It must have done something, I was soon pushing and I think the whites of my eyes gave away that I was experiencing the ‘ring of fire’ as the midwife reassured me that it was just my perineum stretching…well either that or she was psychic as I hadn’t said a word.
Then the baby’s head was out, then one shoulder, then another and then it sort of floated (ably assisted by the midwife) to the surface and was handed to me. What is it? I was desperate to know. My husband rushed round the other side and had a peek….then looked at the midwife who mouthed ‘girl’ before telling me that we had a beautiful daughter.
I wish that this was the point at which my story ended. Whilst I won’t say that I actually enjoyed the labour I would wish that birth on everyone. Followed my birth plan to the T and the sight of a baby being born in the water is just magical. However that’s not the end of it. For those of a nervous disposition I suggest that you look away now.
I’d written in my birth plan that I might want to have a pathological third stage and since I’d managed a drug-free (excluding the copious amounts of entinox) birth I decided to decline the offer of the syntocinon injection. After a while of trying I lost the urge to push. The midwife consulted a senior midwife on duty who suggested that I try standing up and letting gravity do the trick. Instantly the placenta came out…then everything went black.
I woke up to find myself surrounded by midwives. They told me I’d fainted and that we needed to get out of the pool quickly and did I feel like I could do it by myself. Being the obliging type I let them help me up then the next thing I know I was on a bed and was told I’d fainted again. Blood pressure monitors were quickly applied and soon all my levels went back to normal. Just a rather embarrassing episode I thought, having half a dozen midwives and a registrar (and it would have to be male wouldn’t it) gathered round me, whilst I was pretty much entirely naked and all a fuss over, well not really anything. They then transferred me back to the delivery room and that’s when I realised something was wrong.
A pain was quickly building in my back. A pressure like pain as if a heavy weight were being forced into my lower back. I told the assembled midwives and quickly one of them started pushing down hard on my abdomen. It hurt like hell, like contractions all over again and when I asked what was going on a midwife answered that they were doing manual compressions to get my uterus to contract. ‘Great, can you get me back to a size 10?’ I quipped, trying to use humour to take my mind off the pain but it was still intensifying, feeling like something was building inside me and crushing me.
Suddenly there was a massive release, as if someone had opened a tap. I felt a big gush of warm liquid rush between my legs and the pressure pain was replaced by the most intense pain I have ever experienced. The warm liquid was blood, fresh bright red blood. My husband describes it as if someone had kicked over a pot of paint, it was so quick and so much of it.
We talk a lot about consent and informed choice. When that consent and choice is ripped from you, you know that it’s serious. Midwives who had previously been asking my permission to measure my baby’s heartbeat were stabbing canulas in my arm and goodness knows what seemed to be shoved into every available orifice. Despite my protestations the manual compressions continued, delivering a small and short-lived break from the pain as blood gushed around my legs. I can remember trying to struggle, I wanted to get away, I wanted them to leave me alone. In my head I can still hear my voice shouting ‘No!’ over and over again but no-one seemed to be listening. I screamed out for pain relief but none came, when told I needed to go to theatre I begged them to just knock me out. I remember hearing a midwife call out for a time on the blood match. ‘Half an hour’. ‘Tell them we don’t have half an hour’ came the shouted response. I didn’t have half an hour? Were they serious?
It’s funny what sticks in your mind. I can distinctly remember hearing the instruction that a catheter was about to be inserted. I recalled from the antenatal classes that a local anaesthetic would be applied so braced myself for a small scratch….a searing pain as the tube was inserted in my nether regions took me by surprise and I realised that I was not going to get any pain relief, for whatever reason it simply wasn’t possible.
The team worked efficiently and quickly, always so professional…even in the state I was in you could truly see the meaning of the term ‘team work’ but people’s eyes gave away the seriousness of the situation. You could see the panic and hear the wobble in the voice of my midwife as she tried to reassure me throughout.
I was getting so tired. I stopped fighting, there was simply no point. I knew I had to succumb to whatever it was that they were doing to me. My requests for pain relief unheard, my dignity in shreds.
I started to drift off, my body completely submissive to the pain it was being subjected to. Words got fainter, everything got darker and I distinctly remember feeling like I was floating into a dark hole and it was extremely calming. In the distance I could hear the faint sound of an alarm and it really did feel like it was all happening to someone else. I knew it was me, but it was like I was in another room – the sounds all muffled as if I was hearing everything through thick walls.
‘Jen, stay with us’. I heard a distant voice calling me. I wanted to sleep, I was much happier asleep. ‘Jen, stay with us’. This person was getting annoying now….all I wanted to do was sleep. I can clearly remember thinking ‘5 more minutes’ as if somehow I was just in bed trying to ignore the alarm clock for an early wake up. ‘Jen, breathe the oxygen’. Ok this was getting serious now, this far away person was getting desperate. I thought I’d count to 10, I got to 5, heard another frantic call of my name and decided that I needed to wake up.
I took a massive breath and was engulfed by a searing pain. I immediately regretted waking up, I wanted to go back, I wanted to be asleep again. In that moment though I realised that I needed to fight…I needed to help the team. They couldn’t do it without me. I had to carry on breathing.
I focussed on breathing. It’s the only thing I could do. After several hours breathing throughout labour you’d have thought I’d be well practiced but in truth it was the hardest thing I have ever done in my whole life. My whole body was screaming at me to stop and the internal battle between my body and my brain was immerse.
There were still concerns about the cannula. My veins had collapsed. There was talk of a central line and then finally after what seemed like hours of my arm being stabbed it was in.
I was stable. I was still in critical condition and the outcome was still unsure but I could go to theatre. I heard the registrar state that they needed my consent and the midwife answering that I’d told them to knock me out three times so they could take that as verbal consent. The registrar garbled off a quick rhetoric about bleeding, possible hysterectomies and the need to get me to theatre urgently. I told him I didn’t care and I trusted him…that’s all I had energy for.
Realising that I was being taken away I wanted to see my husband. I HAD to see him, I needed to tell him how much he meant to me. I was scared these could be my final words to him. He’d been taken out of the room shortly after it all started; too overcome by the events and was at that precise moment sat in the day room with his head between his legs as a student midwife cuddled my newborn daughter. ‘Tell him I love him’. I needed him to at least know that. I wanted to tell the midwife to tell him to look after our daughter, tell her how excited I’d been (as well as nervous) to be a new mum. Tell him to look after the dog and tell my family that I loved them also. But I didn’t have the energy, just saying those 5 words were such a struggle that I didn’t dare say anymore. I vowed to keep breathing until we got to theatre and I was still fighting the urge to fall asleep and let go. I would keep going to theatre and then at least I could say I’d tried.
Unfortunately the maternity theatre was already full…an earlier emergency and I’d been pipped to the post. I was going to need to be taken up to the main theatre…and at some speed too.
I was told to shut my eyes as the lights were about to get bright. The treatment didn’t stop, midwives took turns to carry on with the compressions whilst running. Paramedics were yelled at to hold the lift, a trio of old ladies walking 3-a-breast with their Zimmer frames were screamed at to get out of the way, we were definitely the priority traffic in the corridors that day.
We arrived at theatre and new faces busied around me. The anaesthetist introduced herself and then promptly went away. I can remember wanting to call her back, wanted to beg her to just give me the GA as I just wanted the pain to stop. I can remember looking at the lights and wondering if this was going to be the last image I ever saw. As they put the mask on me I can remember closing my eyes and picturing my husband and dog on one of our walks…begging that this wasn’t the end.
I know it sounds cliched but when I woke I honestly didn’t know whether I was dead or alive. My throat felt like it was on fire but the rest of the pain had gone. Two nurses appeared and gave me their congratulations. ‘What did you have?’ they asked. Oh yeah….I’d had a baby daughter hadn’t I! I asked if I still had a womb but they said they didn’t know but that someone would come and talk to me soon. I wanted to reach down to my stomach to see if I had a scar but literally had no strength to lift a finger.
I was then moved to the Intensive Care Unit, the nurse on duty once again congratulated me. I’m sure most people don’t get congratulated on ICU but everything was so surreal, it felt like I’d just had a bad dream. She rand maternity and asked me if I would give consent for my daughter to be given formula. Naturally I said yes, looked at the clock and wondered why they hadn’t done so already. Then they said that my husband and parents (who’d driven down from the Midlands the moment they knew I was in labour) were desperate to see me if I was up for it, with my daughter (oh yeah, I had a daughter) and did I want to give breastfeeding a try? I thought why not so after a short wait my daughter was wheeled into the unit by my husband with my midwife and my parents in tow.
I could tell by my mum’s face that I didn’t look well. My husband’s eyes were red from crying and I desperately wanted to get up and hug him. I asked the midwife what had happened and she explained that I’d had some retained placenta which had caused me to haemorrhage badly, losing 4 litres of blood. The words washed over me. I remembered reading about retained placentas and that if you had one you’d have to go into theatre. I’d never realised they hurt that much or made everyone run around so much. Weren’t they reasonably common? Was this the norm? We tried breastfeeding with a little bit of success before my daughter really did decide that sleep was more important and my midwife asked my permission to hand express. I’d gone from trying consciously to make sure that as much as me was covered as I entered the birthing pool to being ‘milked’ by a midwife with my mum watching.
At the changeover my new nurse introduced herself and told me she was 5 months pregnant with a little boy. Even though I didn’t really understand what had happened to me for some reason I thought it was important to tell her that what had happened was really rare. I guess she knew that already even though I hadn’t actually processed the fact myself…but I think instinctively, although my brain had clearly gone into shut down mode whilst it tried to work out what was going on, reassuring this mum-to-be seemed incredibly important.
I was told to get some rest but in all honesty didn’t get anything. The leg compressor thingy’s and blood pressure monitors squeezing my limbs every few minutes didn’t help, nor did the frequent checks by the nurse…but mostly whenever I tried to close my eyes all I could hear was myself screaming ‘No!’ over and over and flashing images would be on repeat, like some kind of horror film. Staying awake was far easier.
The next morning I was declared well enough to go back down to the unit. Wheeled along the corridors of the hospital I had flashbacks to my journey the previous day, thankfully this time it was a calmer affair.
My husband burst into tears and told me he’d been scared of losing me, that I was his soul mate and he didn’t know what he would have done if I’d gone. At this point I still couldn’t process the seriousness of the situation and was just upset that I’d made my husband upset. My brain like a fortress refusing to make logical sense of the flashbacks, trying to convince myself it had been a nightmare…that it had never happened. The next few hours were a bit of a blur. After having the catheter removed I needed to use the bathroom. A massive panic attack overcame me as I emptied my bladder and I was almost sick. I didn’t know why I suddenly felt like this but the sensation of ‘liquid’ coming out of me took me straight back to the nightmare.
I had a debrief. The consultant was fabulous and got straight to the point. Fifty years ago I’d have died. I’d had a retained placenta which had resulted in four litres of blood being lost and that they would continue to monitor me but that I was expected to make a full recovery but might find I was a bit more exhausted over the next few months. Ok, so not ideal but still why all the fuss? My Mathematical brain drifted off to calculate the percentage of blood loss. Didn’t we have 60 pints of blood (getting confused with my bodily fluids whilst in shock)…converting pints to litres, roughly 15%, it wasn’t that bad was it?
I was waiting for someone to tell me that it had been ok all along. That I’d never been in any danger. I started to analyse the words people were using…why was it so ‘fortunate’ that my iron levels had been so good? Why was it so good that I’d kept myself so fit and healthy? Why was everyone treating me with kid gloves? So I did like any inquisitive person would do and at 2am I googled it. ‘How much blood do I have in my body?’. FIVE LITRES. So I’d lost 80% of my blood, not 15. THAT’s why everyone was so worried. THAT’S why I’d been in ICU. It hit me full on. It wasn’t that I was just lucky that I was born in the 1980s and not the 1930s…I was lucky that I’d actually survived right here in 2013. Those flashbacks that I was experiencing were not of something trivial, they were of me on the brink of death….I had nearly died.
The mental journey I went through over the next few days were clear when I re-read my notes. The denial stage was swiftly followed by a massive crash as I realised the enormity of what had happened. I became very teary, spending the hours and hours of breastfeeding with tears rolling down my face. Apologising to my daughter for almost leaving her. The nights were the worst. No distractions to take my mind off it, just a newborn who only wanted to feed and reliving a nightmare every time I closed my eyes. My daughter just fed and fed and fed. Now with hindsight I realise I shouldn’t really have been able to breastfeed. Her constant feeding was not ‘normal’ but was nature’s way of getting my milk to come in. But suddenly breastfeeding became the single most important thing for me to achieve. When a midwife (whom I know to be very supportive of breastfeeding) suggested that I give some formula to give me a break I almost growled at her as I pulled my baby away from her open arms. She smiled and sent my husband off to the canteen to get me a cooked breakfast as the unit breakfasts were ‘lacking in protein’.
I fed and fed and fed. I rang the call bell often for reassurances on latch. I read my notes, I re-read my notes…I fed some more. And slowly the fog started to lift and I could see me getting through it.
It was the Sunday evening, day 4, and I decided that I really wanted to go home the next day. After another monster feed I went to change a nappy and my daughter promptly wee’d all over the bed necessitating yet another press of the call bell. I instantly recognised the midwife who came in. I didn’t know her but she’d been one of the crash team, the one who I’d joked with about getting me back to a size 10. ‘You were there.’ I exclaimed. ‘Oh I’m so glad you’re ok, I’ve been thinking about you ever since’ she replied ‘you were my first emergency, I only qualified in September’. After helping me to change my daughter she sat on my bed and we talked about what had happened. The fact that she was willing to go through it all with me really helped as everyone I’d met to that point (bar my original midwife) was either talking second hand about the events or I couldn’t remember them being there. She told me about how seeing me better had helped her as she’d been really worried ever since that shift. It humbled me – knowing that you’re not just an NHS number and how much you can impact on people even if they are ‘just doing their job’ really hit me.
The journey to recovery was difficult. I got a full dose of emotions over the coming weeks and months – never anger but an incredible amount of guilt over what I’d put everyone through and how I’d abandoned my daughter at the start. I would often get flashbacks and would wake in the night dripping with sweat after being transported back to the delivery room, hearing myself screaming and re-living the pain. But it did get easier and I have some amazing friends and family who helped me through. It was my ‘elephant in the room’, I didn’t really want to talk about it but it felt just too big that I often wanted to blurt out what had happened to anybody who asked ‘how are you doing?’ as a friendly enquiry when admiring my newborn squidge. There was no ‘support group’ as such and so I found the friendly and openness of the local breastfeeding peer supporters my rock as they not only helped me cope with the never ending cluster feeding (yes it was still going on) but would be a sympathetic ear to my experience. The moment that sticks in my mind is when attending one group one of the peer supporters came and put her arm round me and told me she knew what I was going through. She hadn’t experienced the exact same but had gone through something similar when faced with a life-threatening illness whilst giving birth. She knew what it was like to go under the anaesthetic not knowing if you were going to live or die. Finally, someone who could empathise….and she helped me so much.
Physically I recovered very quickly although I had no energy for several months and had a grey-ish complexion for many weeks. Mentally it took a bit longer but in reality I know I overcame the struggle much easier than most. A further debrief from the same consultant a few months down the line helped my logical brain make sense of the events and start to associate the flashbacks with what was happening at the time and this in turn made the flashbacks and nightmares less scary as I slowly rationalised them into discrete memories that could be managed one by one.
Nineteen months later I was pregnant again – the experience not deterring me from trying for another. I almost felt like because they hadn’t needed to take out my womb it meant that I should at least try for one more. The second pregnancy and birth was an extremely tough mental experience – my logical brain won most of the time and I was able to rationalise that the likelihood of a repeat was low and that this time we’d be prepared so the risk of me dying would be reduced. But my subconscious fear would bubble to the surface from time to time and as my due date drew near I know I became a bit more withdrawn as the flashbacks and nightmares returned in full force.
I now have another beautiful daughter and am pleased to say we didn’t have a repeat of birth number one. This delivery was quick…..as in blink and you’ll miss it quick…almost requiring some goalkeeping skills from my midwife, maybe my body just wanting it all over and done with. But she was delivered safely and despite me still losing a larger than average amount of blood it was managed and I was never in any danger,
But that’s it for me now. I’d always only wanted two children and although the joy of the newborn phase does tug at my heartstrings for another one I know in reality I don’t want to go through another pregnancy and birth from a mental perspective. Yes I coped last time but it took an awful lot of mental strength, not just for me but for my husband and other family members too. I’m not sure I could put them or myself through it again.
Obviously I wish what had happened to me had never happened but if someone had to be ‘the one’ in goodness knows how many thousands then I’m glad it was me. I’m glad it was someone who was fit and strong enough to keep fighting…that I hadn’t been exhausted by a lengthy labour or been suffering with one or more pregnancy ailments that had depleted iron and energy levels. I’m glad it was someone who had the right type of brain to logically work through the events to help make the mental battle easier to overcome. I’m glad it was someone who had good friends and family as a support network to help get through those early days. And most of all I am so grateful that I am lucky enough to live in a country where I have ready access to excellent care – that when I needed it there was a team of people ready to fight for me and I wasn’t just left to die.