A Brush With Death During Childbirth :: Amniotic Fluid Embolism


My family’s lives changed in an instant exactly one week ago today.

In Chicago, my brother Josh and his wife, Katie, went into the hospital to deliver their third child. Our family is spread out across the United States and we all kept checking our phones, excitedly expectant. Everything was going well. No one had any reason to worry. Reassuring texts said things like “Contractions are pretty steady at this point. They broke her water around 1 p.m. and they’re waiting a bit before checking to see how far progressed she is.”

And then my phone rang.

My brother called and asked me to pray because Katie had lost consciousness while laboring and they had rushed her to the operating room to deliver the baby. Josh was so calm that I naively thought she’d just regain consciousness after the C-section and things would be fine.

They weren’t fine.

We later found out that in the OR, Katie’s heart stopped beating for ten minutes. Ten minutes.

Baby Emily was safely delivered at a healthy weight, but there were some concerns so she was taken to the NICU.

Our new baby excitement quickly dissolved into fear and even confusion. Why did this happen?

Several tests were run and it was determined that Katie had suffered an Amniotic Fluid Embolism. Up until one week ago, I had never heard of an amniotic fluid embolism (AFE).

We got the diagnosis, and my husband then disappeared for ten minutes. When he emerged, he said, “Don’t Google it.”

An amniotic fluid embolism is extremely rare and many of Katie’s care providers had only read about it in a textbook; never seeing a patient suffer through one. In short, the amniotic fluid embolism caused amniotic fluid to enter her bloodstream, and her body had an allergic-like reaction to it.

This past week has included more complications, blood transfusions, hospital transfers, and many unknowns. We’re expecting this to be a marathon, not a sprint. As I write this, my dear sister-in-law remains in the ICU fighting for her life, but baby Emily continues to improve and it looks like she’ll be discharged soon.

I don’t share this to scare you. (Even though it is terrifying.) I share this because today is Amniotic Fluid Embolism Awareness Day. A condition I didn’t know existed seven days ago, but now our family is forever changed. This is a day for those impacted by AFE to honor and remember the lives lost to AFE. This is a day to continue supporting the AFE Foundation’s research, education, and support initiatives.

Please join us in lighting a candle tonight. For my sister-in-law and for the many others who have been impacted.

Have you or someone you know been impacted by AFE?


  1. Wow! Thanks so much for sharing this, Kate! We continue to pray for Katie and Josh and are so grateful that baby Emily is doing so well! Hugs to you, James, and the kids as we follow along and pray for complete healing for Katie!


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