A new parent’s nightmare

September 21, 2010

By Laura Geggel

Mother remains in the hospital while father cares for the baby

Nate Bower looks down at his daughter, Sage, in their home near May Valley, as they wait for wife and mother Sarah Bower to return home from the hospital. By Greg Farrar

By the time Sage Bower was born in the early hours of Aug. 24, her mother, Sarah Bower, was already in a coma after experiencing a hemorrhagic stroke.

“It was the scariest thing I had ever been through,” said Sarah’s husband, Nate Bower. “I thought I was losing her right there. I was yelling at her to try to get her to talk. Words can’t explain it.”

Sarah and Nate Bower were ecstatic about being new parents. The two had met through friends at church and married in 2001, living in Issaquah before they moved to Maple Valley and then next to May Valley.

Nate worked in construction, but recently lost his job because of the Great Recession. Sarah worked as a hairstylist at Issaquah’s Salon Jade, which she owned with her mother for four years, participating in ArtWalk and Salmon Days, until she sold it in June.

Sage was due Aug. 19, and the family’s physician was planning to induce labor. But Sage was born an entirely different way. Sarah, 34, awoke at 3 a.m. Aug. 24, complaining of stomach pains and a pounding headache.

Nate drove her to the emergency room at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle and watched as they plugged his wife into an IV dripping with painkillers. Her blood pressure had skyrocketed. He held her hand and held a rag over her throbbing head.

Then, her left side went limp.

Doctors realized she had just had a stroke. Doctors delivered Sage via C-section so that Sarah’s blood pressure would drop.

Neurosurgeon Gregory Foltz happened to be on site and he managed her case.

Shortly after her stroke, Sarah’s physicians learned she had HELLP — hemolysis, elevated liver enzyme levels and a low platelet count. HELLP is rare, and more likely to affect white, pregnant women older than 25. HELLP patients often feel tired and experience pain in the upper part of their abdomen, as well as headaches or nausea.

Because many healthy pregnant women experience such symptoms, HELLP is hard to catch, but women with high blood pressure can ask their doctors to test them, according to FamilyDoctor.org.

The high blood pressure caused by HELLP likely led to her stroke, her husband said.

After the delivery, Sage was safe, but Sarah was sedated and not responding with normal reflexes. Doctors rushed her to a CAT scan. Sarah’s medical diagnosis was going from bad to worse; the CAT scan showed she had bleeding in her brain. When blood enters the brain, it causes swelling.

As a Jehovah’s Witnesses, Sarah would not accept a blood transfusion. Foltz inserted a ventricular drain into her brain to help drain the blood from the hemorrhage, but Sarah’s blood started clotting.

Nate had called some close family friends, and Foltz explained Sarah’s options to them. Foltz said could use a drug, called tissue plasminogen activator, that would help unclot the blood in her brain, but the FDA had not yet approved the drug for the procedure.

With Nate’s permission, Foltz used the drug. It worked perfectly.

“Really, within a few minutes of inserting this tube, her brain was under tremendous pressure and the drain stopped working,” Foltz said. “She would have died had we not been able to get the tube working.”

“All of the stars were aligned for Sarah,” he said.

“The nurse is like, ‘I can’t believe it’s working. It’s a miracle,’” Nate said. “I started crying a little bit. As Christians, we rely on God a lot. It was interesting seeing this all happening.”

Healthcare workers transported Sarah to Swedish’s Neuroscience Institute on Cherry Hill. Sarah remained in a coma for two weeks, staying at the hospital’s ICU instead of with her baby daughter.

Sarah’s parents and sisters have been helping Nate care for Sage, watching her during the day so he can be with Sarah and staying with Sarah at night so he can be with Sage.

“We talked a long time ago and decided that if something happened, I would take care of the baby,” Nate said.

During the second week of September, Nate took Sage with him to see Sarah. He laid his daughter on his wife’s chest and put Sarah’s hand on her child.

Sage had been slightly fussy before the visit, but once she heard her mother’s heartbeat, she fell fast asleep on Sarah.

“All of the nurses were crying,” Nate said. “She knows who mommy is.”

Sage knows who her daddy is, too. The father dotes on his sleeping daughter, his “little hobby for the next 18 years,” he said.

Family and friends from Issaquah’s Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses have stepped forward, cooking Nate’s family dinner and offering them support. Tammy Siegert and Jill Young, who both know the family through church, spend time with Sarah.

“She’s kind of responding to talking, but not a whole lot and with her hands,” Siegert said. “She can wave. She gets real tired real easy, so we just talk to her when she’s awake.”

Windermere real estate agent David Eastern is selling the family’s house for free so they can move back to Issaquah.

Sarah is still recovering from her stroke, but she has started physical therapy sessions.

“She’s had the greatest recovery,” Foltz said. “It’s just incredibly gratifying to see someone who has so much to live for do so well. I fully expect she will be able to return to a fully functional life in raising her new baby.”

Her husband said he and Sage would be there for her.

“This might be long term for Sarah,” he said, but “she’s definitely on the road to recovery.”

Help the Bower family
Donate to The Sarah Bower Donation Fund at any Wells Fargo. Call the Issaquah branch at 557-0551 for the account number.

Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or lgeggel@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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23 Responses to “A new parent’s nightmare”

  1. Lauren on September 22nd, 2010 12:08 am

    Thank you for the wonderful article about our dear friends. We are looking forward to Sarah’s full recovery and are keeping the entire family in our daily prayers.

  2. Martin Paul on September 22nd, 2010 6:03 am

    Remarkable story of how medicine meets the challenge of respecting and treating the patient with dignity. Congratulations to the proud parents and the what appears to be an excellent medical staff.
    Sage, you are in good hands. Life is a wonderful gift. Treasure it. The one doting on you is your dad. That beat is your Mom’s heart as if you didn’t know.

  3. renee on September 22nd, 2010 9:50 am

    What a beautiful story and we are so happy that sage and sarah are doing fine.
    Jehovah is our very best friend, he helps us get thru whatever trials we come up against. We love you guys! and all our prayers are there for you.

  4. darla edwards on September 22nd, 2010 11:01 pm

    Much love to this sister and her family!!

  5. Shalimar on September 23rd, 2010 11:41 am

    What a beautiful example of faith and love for our Creator Jehovah who knows what is best for his people. May all the friends in this family’s congregation continue to assisting them. When I read of Sage placed on her mother and how she responded made me break into tears. I am so thankful for our God Jehovah. We all look forward to fulfillment of Revelation 21:1-5. Love to this family.

  6. Michael knypstra on September 23rd, 2010 1:31 pm

    Im so happy for my sister to be making such a good recovery. I love her so much. May jehovah continue to support the family and all the friends. Love you sis.

  7. Mary A on September 23rd, 2010 4:21 pm

    Jehovah is a Loving Father ….How wonderfull when the whole earth of God loving people, will never say.. “I am sick”.
    Love,your Sis & California Family

  8. Ken Smith on September 23rd, 2010 11:02 pm

    I’m glad the mother and baby are doing well.

    But I think it’s such a shame that more of the Jehovah Witnesses who commented above didn’t bother to thank the doctors and nurses for the superb medical care the mother received.

    Let them pray all they like to their god, but it was the highly-skilled humans (especially the medical researchers who developed new drugs and the physicians who administered them) who saved this mother’s life.

    Let’s get our priorities right, people!

  9. jeannine nelson, redondo heights on September 23rd, 2010 11:21 pm

    Hey Bower family and congregation, you are a wonderful witness to integrity and perseverence. Know the whole brotherhood is supporting you through our prayers. By the way Sage is a cutie. Hang in there. The nelson’s.

  10. John Harrison on September 24th, 2010 2:37 am

    Thank you for your fine example of faith and trust in Jehovah. The thoughts of your Christian brothers and sisters here in South Africa are with you as we remember you in our prayers. Jehovah will care for your lovely family. A big well done to the hospital staff and doctors.
    Christian Love John Harrison & Family in South Africa.

  11. jeannine nelson, redondo heights on September 24th, 2010 5:32 pm

    To Ken Smith, you are correct. But we are very appreciative of the highly skilled doctors that have gone beyond the call of duty to provide the care that Jehovah’s people need. In fact much of the none blood medical treatments were driven by our needs. Time and research has also shown that much of the “requirements” of healthcare previously thought “critical to life” were not necessary and people can tolerate much more. It has also sharpened the skills and mindset of many doctors of which all the public benefits from. The world over people are living healthier liver due to these strides in medicine. We sing their praises all the time. Check out the bloodless medicine programs at a number of area hospitals for the best doctors. But in defense of my friends….we are just focusing on how they met a difficult situation in strong faith and endurance. Besy of life to you. =)

  12. Sue on September 24th, 2010 5:56 pm

    Thank you so much for the wonderful article. I know I appreciate your kindness and enthusiasm in the story. I sincerely hope all goes well for the Bower family. I know the family appreciates all the medical staff has done and is doing. As one whose been in a life threatening situation I know you come to have a closeness with the medical staff involved and let them know how much you appreciate their help. Sometimes the despair is so overwhelming that prayer to Jehovah God for the Drs to recall their training, think of new things to try, help in coping are the only options that seem to make sense. Let’s be grateful for the faith of many, the efforts of the medical personnel and the assistance that others are so motivated to give. I thought this article was very well balanced and encouraging for others. It certainly helps to know what options are out there in a medical emergency.

  13. friend on September 24th, 2010 9:46 pm

    keep holding your heads up. Jehovah will always be there to comfort and be the support for you, along with the congregation and friends. Sounds like the doctors did an excellent job in helping sarah pull thru this. We thank Jehovah for giving humans (the doctors) the ability to use there wisdom and abilities in this situation. And we all look forward to the future when we wont have to worry about sickness and aches and pains, hence no need for doctors. That will be a wonderul time. Hang in there Bower family. :)

  14. j&j bartmess on September 25th, 2010 12:43 am

    Hello Bro’s and Sisters. And greetings from Northern California!
    What a gratifying story, and of course heart wrenching. So many of us who have been through ‘life/death’ situations remember one thing the clearest…leaning on our incomparable Father…and the calm that he gave us…so that we could carry on with whatever needed to be done.
    The brotherhood is as much of a miracle in this ugly world as the parting of the red sea…so precious!
    Agape, and hope to meet all of you some day!

  15. Shirley on September 25th, 2010 11:54 am

    I am thankful that baby & Mom are doing OK! Excellent article giving praise to Jehovah & the medical field!

    Many do not understand our worship to Jehovah & that everything we do or receive is from Him!

    All can & do benefit from the experience & knowledge that humans gain wherein this can be used in a witness to our God, Jehovah!

  16. Elizabeth S. on September 25th, 2010 7:50 pm

    I’m in agreement with Mr. Smith. The real people who should be praised are the doctors, nurses, and researchers who put in decades of education and who spend their lives developing new treatments and medicines. Putting your hands together and ‘praying’ accomplishes nothing and requires zero effort. If praying was that effective, the Bower’s wouldn’t have gone to the hospital. They would have stayed at home and let ‘Jehovah’ determine their fate. At least they had the common sense to seek REAL treatment by REAL people and not imaginary gods.

    On the same note, if you’re going to thank Jehovah for this woman’s recovery, you should also blame him for making her nearly die in the first place. You can’t ‘praise’ a god for all the good things and just overlook all the bad.

    A million people can believe a stupid thing and it’s still a stupid thing.

  17. jeannine nelson, redondo heights on September 26th, 2010 9:30 pm

    Elizabeth sorry you feel so negative. Jehovah didn’t let her or get her to a state of almost dying. Satan and Adam and Eve choose to turn their backs on a loving creator and choose independence from God’s arrangement which brought them into a sinful state (missing the mark of God’s standards) which pulling away led to life without his help as they wanted it, which led to death and troubles. We all suffer from their decision. God does not force humans to serve him, we are not robots. But looks for humans to appreciate him and learn about him and His purpose to fulfill His original purpose. Please don’t judge what you don’t know. We don’t sit around and just pray. But we do see the benefit of doing so to get God’s direction. I’m glad you felt happiness as we did in such a triumpant outcome. Much peace to you. I invite you to ask us questions about our beliefs next time we come to your door, no obligation. Thank you.

  18. Deborah on September 26th, 2010 11:52 pm

    Elizabeth, if you had ALL the facts, you might have come to a different conclusion. Even the Drs. involved in this dilemma admitted that there must’ve been some Divine intervention. Do you suppose those ‘million people’ who thought Noah was an idiot for having so much faith in the TRUE God, Jehovah, that he was willing to put aside his life, as he knew it, and build an ark, as well as preach to others about how they could come into the ark to be saved, still thought he was an idiot when it began to rain and the door of the ark closed? I feel pity for you, and others like you who don’t know the wonderful God, Jehovah, and all the love He’s shown for mankind, and continues to show. Do yo suppose it’s possible that He could direct someone to the right hospital, Dr., or treatment, if He so desires? If you knew Jehovah you would answer with a resounding YES! Please take the time to open a Bible and get to know what He has in store for anyone who’ll listen and learn. Jehovah’s Witnesses will be happy to assist you…truly.

  19. family friend on September 27th, 2010 11:27 am

    Wow, amazing! Im so happy for the recovery : )
    Sad tho, that some ppl didnt filter themselves on here. Oh well maybe they learned from this.
    Everyone who is family and friends IS very thankful for ALL of the ppl involved in helping her.
    Keep in mind tho that it did take Jehovah to first give the ppl the brains and skill to be able to help her.
    Thank You
    Much Love : )

  20. Rene' Howell on September 28th, 2010 8:08 am

    my thought and prayers are with Nate and Sarah and baby Sage….praying for a speedy recovery…

  21. Paula Toglia on September 28th, 2010 4:15 pm

    The Bower family,
    You will all continue to be in our prayers and thoughts. Let us know if we can assist in anyway at all.
    Matt and Paula Toglia
    Des Moines cong.

  22. Charlane Neale on September 29th, 2010 6:11 pm

    What a mighty God we serve…..

    Sarah be well my friend get stronger every day and I know that the God of our Fathers will take this and turn it around into something good-I pray you will be home soon with your lovely family and you will run in a marathon and enjoy the sweet life that God has given you- We miss you and are praying for you and your family.

    It is written – For I will restore health unto you and I will heal you of your wounds, saith the Lord Jeremiah 30:17

  23. Brianna Wilson on September 30th, 2010 10:51 am

    I remember telling the family that it perfectly ok to bring baby Sage to see mommy after the first week…that there was minimal risk of infection for Sage…it is just the sort of thing that helps baby as well as mommy…that although in a coma Sarah would know. The relief on the family’s face was precious. Sage hadn’t heard her mommy’s heartbeat since the c-section. Seeing Sage on Sarah’s chest was beautiful and heart wrenching and I knew they would be alright. This was a serious event and will be a long recovery process and I am thankful to have been apart of it. My colleagues will never forget and are excited to see Sarah and Sage walk back into our unit – Nurse Brianna

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