by Karen Larré, Carla Garcia and Mary Anne Weaver
Stephanie Arnold was an Emmy-nominated and award-winning TV producer who spent 27 years creating and producing TV shows, music videos and documentaries. She left the “business” in 2008 after meeting the love of her life. From that point on, the only thing she wanted to produce was a family.
During the birth of her second child, Stephanie suffered a rare, but often fatal condition called Amniotic Fluid Embolism (AFE) and died on the operating table for 37 seconds. Everything she does since is a direct result of her survival.
Stephanie currently serves on the board of directors for the AFE Foundation, speaks on patient advocacy to organizations like the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), medical institutions and nursing organizations (AWHONN). She was the face for the legislative campaign When Seconds Count (ASA) and also for the Mother’s Day LifeSource program, helping to educate about blood donation. She has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Prentice Women’s Hospital and continues to raise money for research and education into one of the leading causes of maternal death in the world.
She was named one of the Today’s Chicago Woman’s “100 Women of Inspiration.” She blogs and offers support to families affected by trauma and surviving against the odds. She has appeared on numerous TV shows, including Good Morning America, Megyn Kelly Today Show, The Dr. Oz Show, The Steve Harvey Show, Good Day LA and has been featured in Yahoo, Women’s Health, Good Housekeeping, DailyMailUK, Cosmopolitan online and many more. Her multi-award-winning, best-selling debut book is being translated into many languages and is currently being distributed worldwide.
Stephanie Arnold lives in Chicago with her husband Jonathan and is the loving mother of Adina, Jacob and stepdaughter Valentina.
Truly Alive: Please describe AFE for our readers and the health complication that caused your “37 seconds” of death.
Stephanie Arnold: AFE stands for Amniotic Fluid Embolism (afesupport.org) – it’s a very rare, 1 in 40,000 pregnancy risk, where the amniotic fluid gets into the mother’s bloodstream, and if you happen to be allergic to it, your body goes into anaphylactic shock. There are two phases to an AFE – the first phase is cardiac arrest – in my case I flat-lined due to the cardiac arrest. In my case, the hospital staff had the crash cart there and got me back up quickly. After cardiac arrest, the second phase is DIC (Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation), the body’s inability to clot blood. Every part of the body starts hemorrhaging.
Stephanie Arnold’s interview with the American Society of Anesthesiologists®
TA: Why is the recovery from an “AFE” so lengthy? Can you talk about what you went through?
SA: The medical staff brought me back up from cardiac arrest, and I was hemorrhaging. They did their best to stabilize me. Hours later, they realized I was still hemorrhaging, so they called in a specialist to perform a hysterectomy. Once they did the hysterectomy, they patched me back up again – and then my kidneys went offline. After that, they put me in a medically induced coma to stabilize everything, so I wouldn’t be thrashing around. I was the coma for six days. When they took me down off the meds, I was still on dialysis with kidney failure. It took several weeks for my kidneys to become functional again, and for me to be able to walk.
TA: You had a premonition that this was going to happen before it did – can you describe how this happened for you?
SA: Three months prior to the birth, when I was 20 weeks pregnant, I had the twenty-week ultrasound. The baby was perfect…but I tested positive for placenta previa, which is not uncommon. It’s a 1 in 200 risk where the placenta is growing on top of the cervix. It’s not serious, and at the most, I might be required to have a C-section. But even so – something sat wrong with me the moment the doctor said “placenta previa.”
Then we went home, and I decided to learn all about “placenta previa” on the Internet. I found out about a rare complication of placenta previa, where it can become an accreta. That’s what Kim Kardashian had, which is basically when the placenta marries itself to the uterus. If that happens, I could potentially need a hysterectomy. As a result of the hysterectomy, I could hemorrhage. In that case, the worst-case scenario is, you and the baby die. Suddenly I sat back in a cold sweat and I looked at my husband and said, “This is going to happen to us. The only difference is, the baby is going to survive.”
TA: You were 100% certain. There was not even 1% of doubt. This was a true, complete knowing!
SA: Yes – I knew this so strongly, that I’d talk to anyone who was willing to hear me. My husband got tired of hearing the story over and over again. When I’d go to the doctor, I would explain that this was going to happen. Even if you saw me at Starbucks and saw me waddling around and asked, “how’s the pregnancy going” I’d answer, “I’m going to die.” It was such a strong knowing!
One day, I was caring for my 15-month-old daughter, walking her in a stroller. We were in New York City, walking by a fountain that had been turned off for the winter. I was explaining how the fountain is beautiful with the water flowing – when, in my mind’s eye it turned to blood, and I felt a rush of blood through my entire body. I grabbed onto the stroller and I called my husband. “You need to meet me at the hospital, I’m hemorrhaging!” We raced to the hospital, and I met my husband there – and the doctor came to us and said, “The baby’s fine – and you’re fine.”
I didn’t realize it then, but I realized it afterwards – this incident was a warning. This was foresight.
TA: How did following your intuition, ultimately save your life?
SA: When I flat-lined, the doctors were able to bring me back quickly because there was a crash cart and extra blood in the operating room, which is unusual. Later I found out the anesthesiologist that I had a consultation with months prior to delivery, flagged my file and brought these supplies into the operating room. Unbeknownst to me, she heard me. I mean, really heard me. Before the operation, she said to the attending anesthesiologist, “I have a bad feeling about this,” and she wouldn’t leave me. There were other surgeries on in the floor, the anesthesiologist could have been attending – but she decided in that moment that she was going to stay put. I asked her, “Why did you flag my file?” She replied, “You were the first patient I had ever spoken to, who was so sure of what was going to happen to her, who had had a C-section before, and who sought out a specialist to save her life.” It was this one conversation, out of all the times I spoke up, that literally saved my life.
TA: How did you decide to try regression therapy?
SA: I was getting stronger physically, and also seeing therapists to help me heal the psychological effects of these powerful traumas. I went from therapist to therapist, because each time I started out my therapy session, I’d say “You need to tell me how I saw everything months before it happened.” None of the therapists I consulted, could help me with that. Also, I felt traditional therapy wasn’t working fast enough. I didn’t want to wait another year to be healed – I had children who needed their mother and a husband who needed his wife back ASAP. That’s why I decided on regression therapy. There was nothing traditional about our story, who why did I think traditional therapy would do the trick?
After I started regression therapy, it took many hours before I was able to connect with my memories in the Operating Room. Eventually it got to the point where I needed to rip the band-aid off. I had my regression sessions videotaped so I could refer to them later – anyone can go to the “spirituality” section of my website, register, and see a couple of intense minutes of my regression therapy session, where my body convulses and goes through a seizure. After that, I explain what I see in the Operating Room after I flat-lined.
This hypnotherapy session was powerful. I was explaining who hit the button for the code, which nurse jumped on my chest and gave me CPR and broke my ribs, that the anesthesiologist was by my feet, that my gynecologist kept saying “This can’t be happening, this can’t be happening.” I also saw what was happening down the hall, what my daughter was doing with her friend in the delivery room – and even more. After this regression session, I felt a weight had lifted from my shoulders.
Jonathan noticed that I felt better – he was happy that the regressions were helping. But he also questioned whether my sessions could be considered factual. At first, I was angry at him, but then I realized he had a point. To determine if my regression experience could be supported by factual evidence, Jonathan and I showed my hypnotherapy videotape to the doctors who had cared for me. The doctors were perplexed – they didn’t know how I knew what happened in the Operating Room! Next, I asked my OBGYN, “Did you say, ‘This can’t be happening, this can’t be happening’ She said – “Yes I did, but only in my head.” I then identified the medical resident who delivered my baby and asked my doctors if I was right. Julie – one of my doctors – looked ashen and said “Yes. How do you know that?”
At first, I was angry at him, but then I realized he had a point. To determine if my regression experience could be supported by factual evidence, Jonathan and I showed my hypnotherapy videotapes to the doctors who had cared for me. The doctors were perplexed – they didn’t know how I knew what happened in the Operating Room! Next, I asked my OBGYN, “Did you say, ‘This can’t be happening, this can’t be happening’ She said – “Yes I did, but only in my head.” I then identified the medical resident who delivered my baby and asked my doctors if I was right. Julie — one of my doctors — looked ashen and said “Yes. How do you know that?”
The argument could still be made: “Maybe you heard it all, because the brain potentially loses consciousness after 10 minutes, and you were clinically dead for only 37 seconds.” Yes – that’s possible. But I most certainly couldn’t see what they were doing. Once you flat-line, and the medical personnel bring you back up, they intubate you, and they tape your eyes shut. Additionally, there was a curtain in front of my neck because I was having a C-Section – and I couldn’t see anything below my neck.
TA: Did your “out-of-body” experiences heighten your intuitive abilities or precognition?
SA: Prior to my near-death experience, I could sense a few things – like when someone died – but these were sporadic experiences. Now I have powerful experiences I can’t explain. For instance: I was in a concert with a girlfriend of mine, and we’re enjoying the music, while standing in a crowd of thousands of people. And I turned to look at this guy about a hundred feet from me – and I felt something – I don’t know why I had the need to say something, but I walked over to the guy and I asked, “Why did you try to commit suicide?” And the guy falls to the floor in a puddle, crying. He lifts up his pant leg and shows me a prosthetic leg, saying, “Everybody thinks I was in a car accident, but the reality is I jumped in front of a train. How do you know that?” And I answered, “I’m sorry. I can’t tell you how I know it, and I don’t mean to invade your privacy…I’m going to walk over here.” And I walked some distance away. How did I know – while standing in a crowd with thousands of people all around me – to approach this person, and say that to him?
Here’s another example. I used to work in television and was recently introduced to a very successful executive producer, a creator of content. She has a very strong reputation in the industry, selling shows. I had a meeting with her approximately 8 months ago. I’d never met her before. The first thing she said was, “I’m a skeptical person.” I said, “Cool – I’m not here to prove my story. I’m here just to pitch you a show.” In our meeting, I was sitting in a conference room with 10 people I’d never met, with my girlfriend sitting next to me. Suddenly I felt like I was having a heart attack – but I knew it wasn’t mine. Pain started radiating down my left arm, my chest was being squeezed too tightly, and I couldn’t go on. I had to stop the meeting and ask, “Does anybody here have a male family member who just had a heart attack?” Everybody denied it, so we concluded the pitch meeting and I walked out. My heart attack symptoms stopped immediately after I left the building.
I didn’t expect to hear from them ever again. Then – four days later I get a phone call from the company, who informed me: “We figured out where the heart attack symptoms came from. After the pitch meeting, the producer got a call from her sister in New York. Her father had a heart attack at the moment you were feeling it. Now her father’s OK. She doesn’t want to talk about it, and we’re buying your rights!” I thought – there is no way I know of, that I should have been able to pick up that the producer’s father from 3000 miles away (someone I had never met) – was having a heart attack!
I got off the phone, and I was so upset that I threw up. I realized that I could meet some complete stranger and feel their pain – and more – and it was freaking me out. So, I am still learning how to handle my abilities. But I have found that sharing my experiences can be of great help to other people as well as to myself.
Stephanie Arnold speaks on the importance of listening to premonitions
TA: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about?
SA: I host a Facebook Live event on my public page, https://www.facebook.com/StephArnold37 on the 18th of every month. The 18th is important because in the Jewish religion, 18 means “Chai” which in Hebrew means “life.” I’m finding that the Facebook Live event is a great platform to talk to people “live” about what’s going on and what their thoughts are. I’m finding that people need validation for what they are feeling, more so than just having their questions answered. They just want to know that they are not crazy and/or that they can trust their perceptions. For example, there’s been many times in my life where I knew the person wasn’t for me but, I dated them anyway. And in the end, I thought, “Why didn’t I listen to my intuition? I knew this person wasn’t for me.” If we listen to our intuition, we just know! So – go with the feeling you have, wherever it sits in your body. Sometimes it sits in your head, sometimes it sits in your heart, sometimes it sits in your gut – and listen to it. If you listen to it, you won’t regret it. But, you will probably regret it if you don’t.