Giving birth left mum fighting for life in coma and then paralysed by illness
A mum almost died and was left paralysed after giving birth to her baby son.
Sylwia McGinty, 36, forgot that she had given birth and failed to recognise her family after a terrifying battle with pre-eclampsia which left her fighting for life in a coma.
She then suffered heart failure and a stroke and was paralysed down her left side.
Amazingly, the brave mum has learned to walk again and can now look after her baby son, Frank, who she credits as the inspiration for her recovery.
Sylwia, a former accountant, says: “I’ve had pre-eclampsia, sepsis, heart failure, a stroke and paralysis – yet I consider myself blessed. I feel so lucky to have a loving husband and three wonderful children.
“They have been my focus, all the way through my fight.
“There were times in hospital where I felt very afraid and alone. I couldn’t remember my children at all at first, I felt very confused and disorientated.
“Even when my memory became clearer, I was still very ill and I thought I was going to die.
“It was a horrendous feeling, thinking that I would be leaving my children without a mummy. That was the cruellest part of all.”
Sylwia and her husband, Dean, 38, from Little Hulton, Greater Manchester, already had two daughters, Scarlet, now five, and Angel, now four, when she fell pregnant with their son early in 2019.
The couple were thrilled but in March 2019, she was diagnosed with a blood clot in her leg and was in and out of hospital with bleeding.
In July, her blood pressure became dangerously high and it was decided to deliver the baby seven weeks early.
Their son, Frank, weighed just 4lbs when he was delivered by Caesarean section, but was perfectly healthy.
But following the birth, Sylwia became dangerously ill.
She says: “I was delirious; I couldn’t even remember having a baby. I didn’t know how old my daughters were. I recognised my husband, but that was about it. It was extremely frightening and blurry.”
Three days on, she was diagnosed with sepsis and put in an induced coma. She then developed heart failure and was transferred to a specialist cardiac unit at Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester.
Sylwia says: “My poor husband was out of his mind with worry. He was told I had a 50 per cent chance of survival.
“He said I looked like a corpse when he kissed me. I think it was much worse for him, because I was unconscious and unaware that I might be dying.”
Five days on, medics tried to awaken Sylwia, but discovered she had suffered a stroke and was paralysed down her left side.
She was also deeply confused and traumatised.
She says: “I thought the nurses were doing experiments on me and I was trying to escape. I told Dean I wanted a divorce because I thought he was plotting against me.
“They offered to bring baby Frank to me, but I said no. I didn’t want to see anyone.
“I was in such a dark place and it was terrifying. Afterwards, I felt so guilty, but I know I wasn’t in my right mind.”
In August 2019, two weeks after falling ill, Sylwia was finally able to meet her baby son for the first time.
She says: “It was a surreal moment, but I fell in love with him instantly. I held him in my arms and I melted.
“My husband brought my daughters to visit that same day and just for us to be together, as a family, felt absolutely magical.
“Having my husband and my children with me gave me strength and purpose and suddenly, I knew I could do it.
“From that day, from that first cuddle, I felt like I started to recover. It was a turning point. I had to get better, for my family.”
Five weeks on, Sylwia was allowed to go home but still needed intense daily physio. Dean gave up his job as a truck driver to look after their children. The couple struggled financially and the local community rallied to help.
Her doctors believe she suffered from Catastrophic antiphospholipid syndrome (CAPS), triggered by her pregnancy, a rare condition which leads to multiple organ failure and can be fatal.
Fortunately, recent checks show her heart is improving and her health is good.
Eighteen months on, Sylwia has learned to walk again and, though she has lasting weakness in her left hand and some memory loss, she is now able to look after her three children.
Sylwia says: “That was my goal all along; to be a mother and to be allowed to look after my children myself.
“They are simple things, but I will never again take them for granted.
“I’ve been through hell, but I still consider myself to be so lucky. I have a wonderful husband and three beautiful children, and I am blessed.”