November 22, 2017

How I Nearly Lost My Life: Part 1

It’s been three years exactly.

Three years since the dreadful day that changed our family, our marriage, and the way I think about life, death, and the importance of my role as a mother.

It had already been a really bad year, with several of our boys suffering (and surviving) some really scary stuff.  Christmas came.  It was time to celebrate.

The night before that Christmas in 2008, as I was going to bed, I told my husband about the mastitis I felt coming on in my right breast, and how it was intense, and a little different than I had experienced in the past, with shooting, stabbing pain.  But since I’d had five babies prior to sweet Levi, and classic mastitis 8 or 10 times, I felt I knew what to do to get rid of it fast….just like I’d always done.  Plus, I’d learned all kinds of new, natural, herbal remedies for things like this in preparation for a natural homebirth with the past couple babies.

No worries.  I was on top of this, I thought to myself.

Christmas morning arrived and the family eagerly piled around the tree as excited little boys tore into their gifts.  I was tired, more so than the usual Christmas morning tired feeling that parents often have. I was cold.  I wrapped me and my seven month old up in a big blanket and sat on the floor in a big circle with my family and tried to nurse Levi.  I noted PAIN.  Intense pain in my right breast.  Sure enough, I thought….bad case of mastitis setting in.

I tried to distract myself.  We had important things to do that day.  Today was not a good day to get mastitis.  I switched sides to relieve myself of the pain from Levi’s latch.

We opened presents.  We took pictures.  I tried to nurse Levi again on the right side.

The day progressed and as usual, we began to pack up to go to family’s house for Christmas with them.  I popped a few herbal remedies…I can’t remember what all I tried, but pretty sure the mix included some garlic, grapefruit seed extract, and definitely some green juice.


I got ready to go.  Getting dressed, I noticed that my right breast was very sore, feverish, and of course, now, with my favoring of the left, due to the pain, it was swollen.  I knew better than to favor the healthy one.  I’d always known and always obeyed the rule to favor the infected one, the one with the clogged ducts….and it had always been unpleasant, but bearable.  But THIS….This was getting unbearable.

I took some Advil and we left for the day.

We took this picture of me and my sweet boy.

The medicine was enough to make me think I might be okay, but just a few short hours later, in a back bedroom, trying to nurse on the affected side, with festivities in full swing in the other room, I began to realize I was dealing with something possibly more severe than I was accustomed to.  I was going to need help.  A prescription for something.  For what, I didn’t know yet.  I imagined that this could possibly be yeast, since it was in fact, different than my past experiences with mastitis.

We went home and slept that night and I don’t remember much except pain.

I woke up the next day and called my midwife and told her that I thought it might be yeast.  She called me in some cream.

The cream did absolutely nothing and the situation began to snowball into overwhelming pain.  Each time Levi latched on to nurse, the pain was getting more and more excruciating.  Determined to fight it off, I downed more green juice, took handfuls of herbal cocktails, and tried to flush my system with water as much as I could.  But I was beginning to be desperate.

The pain was more intense than any case of mastitis I’d ever known.

I resorted to more Advil, round the clock.  It stopped helping at all.  It didn’t even take the edge off.  Zero relief.

And then the vomiting started.

I looked at my right breast, and by this third day of what I thought was just an extreme case of mastitis, the bottom half of my breast was deep purple.  I was going fuzzy at this point.  Writhing in pain in my bed, with no relief, and now dehydrated from not being able to hold down any fluids, I was not in a good place.  Add to that that doctors’ offices were closed seeing how it was still the middle of the holidays and I was on a rapid, downhill spiral.

My husband called someone over to watch the boys for us, gave them instructions on how to feed Levi a bottle (who had very  minimal experience at it), and drove me to the ER.

To read Part 2, click here.



  1. I’m interearsted to know the rest. Charlene told me some of it but I would like to hear more.

  2. I am cringing just reading this. I’ve experienced some pretty terrible pain, but this sounds far, far worse!

    Way to leave us hanging. . . I hope you get part two up soon 🙂

  3. how incredibly scary! and now I’m eager to hear the rest!

  4. Oh my gosh, I have chills just thinking about your painful experience.

  5. After 3 months of clogged milk ducts and several cases of mastitus, I finally just quit nursing my (EXCLUSIVELY NURSED) 8 1/2 month baby. I didn’t have anything this extreme but I feel your pain, as I also had to go to the ER over the holidays, after trying to fight it myself for nearly a week. Can’t wait to hear the rest!!! Thank you for sharing so much of your story!

  6. One of these days, when we’re neighbors 😉 we’ll share all our stories! Can’t wait to hear the next part to see if it was something other than severe mastitis…like sepsis.

    With my first baby, I got severe mastitis. In a matter of hours, my breast was completely red, I could not even move my arm or neck. I had a high fever and was crying in the middle of the night. My husband rushed me to the ER. My fever must have been sky high because they stripped off my clothes, held ice packs on my breast, and put a fan on me. Anyone who’s had a high fever knows that you’re already freezing. Needless to say, I felt like I was being tortured. I endured a very painful ultrsound to check if I would need surgery. Thankfully, I didn’t, but I did have to stay in the hospital a couple of days. I’ve had minor cases since, but nothing like that.

    Will be watching for the next part…..

  7. OMGoodness!! How awful and extremely scary!! I am on edge waiting to hear how you overcame the pain (and what it was that was causing it) !!

  8. As a nursing mom I’m curious to hear what happened (so I can be aware of the signs/symptoms). I’m really happy to hear you’re ok now too!

  9. Oh, the suspense! Can’t wait to hear the rest.

  10. Brandy, everything you write keeps me on the edge of my seat. 🙂 Looking forward to reading the rest!

  11. Jean Ferguson says:

    What a beautifully told story Brandy. I had no idea what all you had gone though and wish I could have lived closer so I could have been of some help. You are a remarkable woman, mother and wife and I’m so glad that Dax was lucky enough to have found you to share his life with. I thank God every day for the joy of having you for my daughter-in-law..

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