The difference between life and death is black and white to one St. John’s family
Nancy Browne was 34 weeks pregnant when her liver and kidneys began failing.
© — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
Nancy Browne and her husband, Rob Cochran, with their 7-year-old twins Thea (second from left) and Emmett at their St. John’s home Monday night.
She didn’t have a history of medical problems. She had never broken a bone, never had allergies, and never even sprained a wrist. But when she was pregnant with twins, that all changed.
“I just started feeling a little off,” Browne said. “I kind of lost my appetite, and my legs started swelling up and stuff, which I didn’t think was really weird for being pregnant.”
Nevertheless, Browne and her husband, Rob Cochran, went to the hospital one Sunday morning to get checked out. The doctors did some tests and realized they couldn’t find one of the babies’ heartbeats. The doctors told her she was having liver failure and kidney failure and she needed to deliver her babies right away.
“My jaw just dropped,” she said. “I had never heard anything like that before.”
Browne underwent an emergency caesarean section and the babies were born. The doctors told her that she had a rare condition called acute fatty liver of pregnancy.
“They don’t know what causes it,” Browne said. “The treatment is to deliver the babies right away and … see if the kidney function and the liver function will come back.”
Browne was immediately sedated and the babies were taken to the neonatal intensive care unit, while their mother was in the regular intensive care unit.
Cochran remembers the feeling he had as he ran back and forth from one room to another, checking to see if his children and his wife were alright.
“It’s kind of a strange dichotomy when you go through what’s supposed to be the best day of your life, that is the birth of your children, coupled with the worst day of your life, that is nearly losing your wife,” he said.
The entire experience was very surreal, Cochran said. Various images and feelings come back to him when he recalls the incident, such as doors closing in an empty ward, doctors rushing past him with bags of blood, and standing in the hospital wondering how his wife was going to be. Today, Cochran uses a single word to describe his feelings that day.
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“I’d say numb was the best way to describe it,” he said.
Browne was in intensive care for four days. The doctors couldn’t control the internal bleeding, and they told her that they would have to give her blood products, she said.
“They just kept putting it in,” she said. “It just kept coming right back out.”
Finally, the doctors stabilized Browne to the point where they could perform a second surgery the next day to stop the bleeding. It was Tuesday before she started making a turn for the better, Rob said.
Today, Browne is much better and the couple’s seven-year-old twins are perfectly healthy. Cochran says blood donors and Canadian Blood Services were immeasurably helpful.
“You hear all these catchphrases that it’s in you to give, and one donation saves three lives,” he said. “It’s not just a catchphrase. … When you donate blood it changes people’s lives incredibly.”
Cochran has donated blood 23 times and has made speeches at donor-appreciation ceremonies. He says he has donors to thank for everything.
“They gave us our family,” he said. “It’s really as simple and as black and white as that.”
The Telegram is encouraging readers to donate blood this week as part of its annual The Telegram Saves Lives blood drive campaign. The blood drive runs until Friday. Blood donations can be made at
7 Wicklow St. in St. John’s today from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Thursday from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. and Friday from
9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Check The Telegram this week for more stories on donating blood, and visit thetelegram.com for a special section with more stories and videos.