My heart stopped while I was giving birth - I actually died twice and doctors don't know why

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Doctors have not been able to explain what happened to Keeley Wilson.

A mum suffered PTSD after she had two cardiac arrests and had to be given CPR to restart her heart while she was giving birth.

Keeley Wilson, 36, remembers the ECG monitor flatlining and hearing the long beep while the surgeon was cutting into her to perform a c-section. Her next memory is seeing the face of the anaesthetist who was performing chest compressions - before her heart stopped again.

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She came round a second time to hear newborn Sophia crying - but had suffered broken ribs during the attempt to re-start her heart. Despite tests, doctors were never able to say exactly why she had two cardiac arrests. But the ordeal left her with PTSD, anxiety, flashbacks and nightmares.

Keeley Wilson and her baby Sophia. Keeley Wilson and her baby Sophia.
Keeley Wilson and her baby Sophia. | SWNS

Keeley, from Rochdale, who works as a travel consultant and owns a business decorating Christmas trees, said: "I think it's fair to say I actually died twice. My last memory was feeling so sick, then seeing the line go flat and hearing that long beep, and everyone hitting buttons.

"Then I remember the anaesthetist standing over me saying my name over and over. I saw her face in my sleep for about six months because I had nightmares about this."

Sophia, now three, was born weighing 7lb 12oz at 10.18am on May 18, 2021 after an uncomplicated pregnancy. Keeley had an elective c-section because she'd had an emergency c-section when her first daughter, Mya, now 14, was breach.

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As the surgeon was cutting her tummy open she felt an overwhelming urge to be sick. Then she saw the ECG line flatten on the screen and heard the long beep which signals a loss of heartbeat. She was out for around two minutes then lost consciousness again and woke to hear her baby cry. Her heart had stopped again, she said, but she doesn't know how long for.

She thinks they used a defibrillator to restart her heart and gave her adrenaline, and believes she was in theatre for just over two hours. Keeley was given an ECG and a chest x-ray and told she had fractured ribs from being given chest compressions. She went home the next day and said she struggled with pain and trauma for months.

Keeley Wilson and her daughter Sophia. Keeley Wilson and her daughter Sophia.
Keeley Wilson and her daughter Sophia. | SWNS

"I was in so much pain afterwards," she said. "I could have managed the c-section but the broken ribs were agony. It felt quite early to be discharged especially because I was still in shock.

"I couldn't move - I had to sleep propped up for about two months because of the pain in my chest. I couldn't lift my baby and it even hurt to have her lay on my chest - that made me so sad.

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"I just wanted to cuddle her and couldn't - that made me feel like a failure - and I worried in case we didn't bond. The first time I could pick her up and hug her felt amazing. Thankfully we have a really strong bond: if anything I think this has made us even closer."

She said she met with medics weeks after her birth but no one could explain why her heart had stopped beating. Keeley's GP put her in contact with the patient advice and liaison service (PALS), but said she didn't get any more answers.

She said: "I had PTSD from this. I was emotionally traumatised for about six months. I've never had any other mental health problems but this gave me real anxiety and flashbacks. I still feel confused.

"I can accept that it's happened and that I've moved on but when I think about this I still feel the shock of it. Not knowing how it happened meant that it's been much harder for me to put it behind me - I'd still love to know.

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"If this has happened to anyone else I'd love to hear from them. The midwives, my GP, and the anaesthetist all said they didn't know how that could just happen to me. Everyone just seemed so shocked. All I've been told is that 'it's just one of those things'. I still can't work out how to feel about it."

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