Woman who awoke from coma, 20 days after giving birth, to find she was blind and with three amputations, reveals her struggle and triumph
Carol Decker may have lost her sight and most of her limbs to sepsis but this 42-year-old survivor and mom of two has not given up hope just yet.
In 2008, Carol Decker came out of a coma just twenty days after giving birth to her second daughter Safiya to discover that she was blind. Not only that, her left hand, right ring finger and both feet had been amputated. Now, ten years after that horrible incident, the 42-year-old who lives in Enumclaw, Washington is preparing to publish her book, ‘Unshattered: Overcoming Tragedy and Building a Beautiful Life.’
Decker was woken up early one morning in May 2008 by a sharp pain in her side. Her husband rushed her to the emergency room thinking she might be suffering from a kidney stone. She was seven-and-a-half months pregnant at the time. Doctors could not find anything wrong with her, so they sent her home.
Just two weeks later, Decker started running a 103-degree fever and began having contractions. She was promptly admitted to a Seattle Hospital. Soon, the situation took a turn for the worse.
After an emergency C-section, doctors managed to deliver the baby but soon discovered that the mother was suffering from sepsis - a condition where the body’s reaction to an infection causes damage to vital organs , probably brought on by a strep infection.
She was placed in a drug-induced coma for nearly three weeks. When the sepsis began to threaten her organs, the doctors tried kidney dialysis for three days. Soon it became clear that the only way to save her internal organs was to go ahead with the amputations.
“They didn’t think that I was going to survive, so they brought Safiya in for me to meet her, even though she was in the preemie unit and weighed only 4 pounds, 15 ounces,” Decker told PEOPLE. “I couldn’t see her, but I could touch her and I could feel her and I knew she was beautiful. My children and my husband gave me the courage to go on.”
After completing the amputations, doctors ran into yet another hurdle when they discovered that Decker had developed a rare complication that required her to receive skin grafts.
“I developed a rare complication called DIC [Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation], causing tiny blood clots and bleeding,” she said, “and I needed skin grafts over 30 percent of my body. There aren’t very many people who come back from that.”
The odds were stacked heavily against her but Decker found the courage to fight on. Her family rallied around her and gave her the strength to push forward. Her husband Scott told her: “We’re going to get through this — you’re going to be able to do everything you did before.”
And that gave her the strength to survive where so many others have not. Over the course of five months, Decker slowly recuperated enough to leave the hospital and finally return home.
“It was very hard in the beginning to balance the hospital, kids and work,” said Scott, a 42-year-old dentist. “We just set goals and took things one day a time, and slowly, life has gotten back to normal.”
“Probably the biggest factor in Carol’s recovery,” he added, “is that we have lots of family, friends and community support. Although she required a lot of help in the beginning, she is now 100 percent independent in our home. And our daughters are very mature and helpful whether at home or when we are travelling, so that’s awesome.”
“We appreciate our mom because she has overcome so many challenges, but has done so much for us,” Decker’s 11-year-old daughter Chloe said. “She always tries to do everything she can to have fun with us, like jumping on the trampoline.”
“I’m grateful for my mom that this [life-saving] miracle happened,” added Safiya, 9. “My mom cares for so many people and always has time for me and my sister to do things like go skiing.”
Chloe was not yet 2 when Decker lost her eyesight. She still remembers the last time she saw her little girl, picking violets in the backyard and holding them up to her nose.
“She’s a blondie now, but she had jet-black hair then, pulled into ponytails,” Decker said, “and she had the chubbiest cheeks and deep brown eyes. I’m so grateful that I’ll always have that memory.”
The tragedy stopped Decker from doing many of the things she loved, like baking for her family. It also meant that she could never know what her youngest daughter looked like, a fact that caused intense depression in the 42-year-old survivor mom for years.
“I remember being with the girls and my brother one day, trying to do what I used to do with cookie dough and telling my brother, ‘I can’t do this — I’ll never make cookies again,'” Carol said. “And then suddenly, Chloe reached over and touched me with flour-covered fingers and I realized that I was making cookies with my girls.”
With time and the unwavering support of her family and friends, Decker has managed to rebuild her life. She is now a popular motivational speaker. Decker hopes that her life and struggle can give hope to others who are fighting to overcome their own personal tragedies. Despite her suffering, Decker has learnt to look at her life as a blessing and to see the world anew through touch and feel.
“Life is a gift — if you don’t open it, you’ll never experience the beauty inside,” she said. “Probably more than anything else, I realize that now.”
Decker's book is scheduled for release on June 5th, 2018.