Alabama mama Amber Ertley had just successfully delivered three healthy babies in February 2016 when her partner, Levi Nelson, noticed something wasn’t right. A scene of wonder and delight then took a terrifyingly dramatic turn. After the third of her triplets emerged, Ertley’s heart had stopped and she began to lose blood rapidly. The then 24-year-old was now fighting for her life. And little did she know what a grueling struggle it would turn out to be.
In 2015 Ertley and her partner Nelson, who was then 30, both believed that they had completed their family. They were the proud parents of two little girls – four-year-old Lilly and two-year-old Josey – and were happy with their life. Besides, their automobile was on the small side and their cosy house was quite compact. So both were not really big enough to accommodate any more offspring.
However, just as the couple were about to settle down to a relatively quiet life in the small city of Oneonta, AL, they got a big surprise. Things were going to get a lot noisier, not to mention overcrowded; Ertley discovered she was pregnant for the third time. And, almost before she knew it, the expectant mom found herself lying on an ultrasound technician’s couch once again.
But it was during this routine scan that the young couple got a bit of a shock to go along with their initial surprise. As the female technician maneuvered the apparatus and surveyed the contents of Ertley’s womb, she picked up something unusual. She realized that there were three heartbeats and excitedly told the mom and dad-to-be. At this point, Ertley and Nelson found themselves completely confused.
Ertley later recalled the ultrasound episode with Alabama local news website AL.com in 2016. Apparently, the mom picked up on the woman’s excitement and asked her what the deal was. And it transpired that it was a very big deal indeed. “I said, ‘What does that mean? What does three heartbeats mean?’” Ertley remembered. “And she’s like, ‘You’re having triplets.’”
Perhaps the couple had reconciled themselves to the patter of one pair of tiny feet, but amazingly Ertley was carrying identical triplets. This means that her three babies had originated from a single fertilized egg. And they were now sharing the same placenta and an amniotic sac. Studies put the statistical odds of such triplets at one in 20 million births. Apparently, there were only four sets born in the U.S. in 2015. Now Ertley was setting down a marker for 2016.
While triplets were never on their agenda, Ertley and Nelson soon got over their shock and welcomed the challenge. Thankfully, the first two trimesters of Ertley’s pregnancy went without a hitch. And in the weeks leading up to her due date, the busy mom was still able to undertake her household chores and deal with Lilly and Josey.
However, towards the end of her pregnancy, Ertley started showing symptoms of pre-eclampsia. This is a condition that occurs in the latter part of pregnancy and is thought to denote a problem with the blood supply to the placenta. It causes high blood pressure and this hypertension can lead to serious complications. The only cure for pre-eclampsia is the birth of the sufferer’s baby – or babies.
With this in mind, doctors admitted Ertley to hospital on February 15, 2016. At this stage, she was 34 weeks pregnant and while this is six weeks short of the full nine months, it is average for the gestation of triplets. The medical team at Birmingham’s UAB Women and Infants Center monitored the mom-to-be for five days until she went into labor. Soon after, doctors decided to prep Ertley for a cesarean section.
Nelson was at his partner’s side throughout the C-section procedure on February 20. Presumably, he looked on in mounting glee and relief as one by one beautiful baby girls came into the world. All had cried healthily and all was good. But then when the delighted dad turned to reassure Ertley, he noticed she was seriously struggling.
Nelson later revealed to AL.com that it looked like Ertley was having a seizure. In reality, her heart had stopped and she had suffered severe blood loss. The UAB delivery team immediately issued a “Code Blue.” This dramatic call to action saw medical professionals rush to Ertley’s aid.
In the terrifying moments that followed the birth of her triplets, Ertley almost died – twice. During this time, a traumatized Nelson couldn’t help but think the worst. His mind turned to what he would possibly say to his two older daughters if they lost their mom. “It was the scariest moment of my life,” he recalled. “I was afraid I was going to be be-bopping home with three new babies and no momma.”
While their mother fought for survival, her triplets were checked over and found to be in the pink. The three girls – Remi, Norah and Rylan – weighed four pounds-plus a piece, which is above average for triplets. Norah required an extra few days in the hospital due to a low heart rate, but aside from that the trio were all well.
And perhaps her triplets’ strength and vitality had a positive subliminal effect on their desperately ill mother. Because somehow Ertley managed to pull through her horrendous ordeal. After undergoing a blood transfusion due to almost bleeding out and then having to rely on artificial respiration, the now mom of five finally regained consciousness.
And what a sight for sore eyes – the first thing she saw was her triplets’ sweet little faces. With a handful of kids relying on her, there was no way Ertley was going to give up without a fight. As Ashley Jones, a friend of the family, later said online, “With what happen to her, everyone couldn’t believe she made it. I believe that God has been watching over her closely, knowing it is not her time to go… her babies need her!” However, Ertley’s road to recovery would hardly be a straight one.
Before she could go home, Ertley had to spend the best part of two weeks resting in the hospital under close medical supervision. Doctors eventually discharged her from the UAB in early March 2016. However, four days after returning to her family in Oneonta, the unfortunate young mom suffered yet another bleed.
Once again, Ertley found herself back in hospital. But thankfully her doctors soon got the blood loss under control, and shortly after the patient was able to go home. Ertley was told that she would need to undergo regular check-ups for the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, the mom could finally be at home with her family.
But due to Ertley’s extensive medical bills, household money was tight. There was also the prospect of paying for the check ups and more medication further down the line. Nelson had been forced to take time off his work in construction to care for his girls, so there was little cash coming in. As a result, Ashley Jones set up a crowd-funding campaign to help the seven-strong unit with their living costs.
“Amber needs time to improve her health and the last thing she needs to worry about is bills and paying for medical necessities,” Jones wrote on the GoFundMe page. She added, “Please keep all of them in your prayers, this is going to be a major change [for] them all!” Encouragingly, the campaign proved to be hugely popular. Eventually, almost 500 people donated more than $16,000 to the family. And, with her health improving, things started to look up for Ertley, her girls and the seriously out-numbered Nelson.
In October 2016 Ertley took to the GoFundMe campaign page to express her gratitude to all the donors and well-wishers for their kindness. “Amber here, mother of the amazing identical triplet girls,” she wrote. “We have strong healthy amazing eight-month-old girls… We are doing pretty great.” So, finally, it seems that the family got their happy ending – seven must be their lucky number.