Woman makes the most of her ‘second chance’ and her kids benefit

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DENVER -- There are plenty of songs, books and poems about it. What if today was your last day? Would you really do things differently?

This is the serious question one local mother faced as she was preparing to deliver her third child. Just in time for Mother's Day, she shares a message all parents need to hear.

"They do say you only live once and so each day that passes, you can't relive again," said mother Caroline Nguyen.

Nguyen said like many mothers, she blinked and her days turned to years--her kids, now six and eight.

It's what happened in one minute that seemed to stop time.

She was pregnant with her third, and like she did with her first two, it was time for a weekly ultrasound.

"She just told me that I had a placenta irregularity, and ... that if I wasn't careful, that I wouldn't make it through the delivery," Nguyen said.

Before shock set in, Caroline thought immediately of her children. Children, that may have to grow up without a mother.

"I started thinking about living wills and life insurance," Nguyen said tearfully.

By no choice of her own, life's clock seemed to tick more loudly.

"Not being so worried about running around and having a dirty kitchen, and just taking that minute and running around the house and chasing the kids around playing hide and go seek," Nguyen said.

Caroline's rare and often life threatening placenta disorder is called placenta percreta.

"In a placenta percreta, not only does the placenta grow into the wall of the uterus, it grows beyond the wall of the uterus. And in Caroline's case unfortuantely, it grew into her bladder," said University of Colorado Hospital Surgeon Dr. Saketh Guntupalli.

University of Colorado Hospital hosts one of the few formal placenta percreta programs in the country. Dr. Guntupalli leads the team along with help from maternal fetal medicine specialists in a very high risk surgery that can mean life or death.

"Caroline's case was actually of all the probably 1,000 cases I've done at the U of C Hospital, was the hardest case I've done ... ever," said Dr. Guntupalli.

Caroline understood the gravity and finally surrendered to the fact she wasn't writing the end to this story.

"I think, at some moment, I realized that I wasn't in control of everything and so I just had to trust that there is a God out there," Nguyen said.

She prayed she would be reminded of this and she asked for courage when it came time to say goodbye to her children before they wheeled her in for surgery.

"That was the hardest thing. It was almost like saying goodbyes," Nguyen said.

The baby was first removed via c-section, a process that took 20 minutes. What followed was a nearly 10 hour-long surgery.

"We then performed a radical hysterectomy where we removed the uterus, the posterior or back part of the bladder as well as all the surrounding tissue in the pelvis. She lost 13 times what you normally might expect in a c-section," said Dr. Guntupalli.

Not wanting to leave his patient's side, while it may sound trivial, Dr. Guntupalli never left to go to the restroom ... for 10 hours.

"We have to make this work. My fatigue and my tired and my worry, it doesn't matter, we have to put that aside because there's a bigger issue ... two bigger issues here," Dr. Guntupalli said.

Caroline woke up. She woke up to news of a 5 pound 3 ounce baby girl.

"The first thing that she writes, with the breathing tube still in -- is she writes thank you," Dr. Guntupalli said.

It's an emotion she still feels just as strongly today. Not only is Caroline here, she is 100 percent here, not taking what she sees as a second chance for granted. Instead, spending her hours snowboarding, rafting, hiking--all with kids in tow.

"They look forward to the next weekend and ask where we are going to go," Nguyen said.

While they don't know why mom has this newfound sense of adventure, they don't care why. Because maybe kids know something we somehow lose as adults. They know that in the end, life is not just the passing of time--it's a collection of moments.

Women who have undergone previous c-sections are at higher risk for placenta precreta. Because more and more doctors are turning to c-sections, more women are being diagnosed with the disorder.