I have had HELLP syndrome TWO TIMES now. The first time, it developed at 33 weeks, which resulted in an emergency C-section. The second time, I was already in labor at 39 weeks when it reappeared. I hadn't heard of HELLP before my first diagnosis, and recognized it when it started to reappear the second time.
The first time, it was this unbearable pain around my torso, just under my breasts and extending up through my right shoulder. I presented at the hospital with a high blood pressure reading of 170/110, and blood work showed a slightly elevated liver enzyme count, and a scary-low platelet count. Emotionally, I was a complete wreck. I was in pain completely unrelated to labor, I was terrified for my life and that of my unborn child, and upon learning what was going on, I only wanted to cry and panic over the loss of control I was experiencing in this emergency situation.
The second time, I was already in labor, most likely brought on by a surprise tooth infection that needed a root canal, and realized as the dentist I went to see worked on the tooth in question, that the pain I had experienced the first time was returning. When I got to the hospital for antibiotics, my blood pressure went as high as 240/170, especially as I was trying to push my baby out. Strangely enough, I never had a seizure despite the high readins. I had a lot of fear, but I also had control and an OB who did nothing without my permission. I felt more emotionally stable because I had a birth team that respected my right to make all the decisions about my body and birth. Blood work was done after my son's birth which confirmed another scary-low platelet count and the second-time diagnosis of HELLP.
Two weeks before my first experience, I developed a sinus infection. This was the first time my blood pressure spiked, but it came down once I started antibiotics. Then, on March 6, 2013, I woke up with horrible pain in my torso. I tried going to school, but couldn't make it through one class and had to call my dad for help to make it to my doctor's office. When he realized he couldn't figure out what was going on without the resources of the hospital next door, he had me sent over for pain management and tests. The morphine I was given did next to nothing for my pain. An ultrasound only showed that my son was partially blocking the line between my right kidney and bladder. My blood pressure was high and not coming down, but all attempts at monitoring my baby showed nothing wrong with him.
The problem was me.
My doctor had the good sense to order blood work be done. I remember trying not to give into the pain when several nurses burst into the room to inform me that I needed to be prepped right away for a c-section.
My first thought: I've failed.
I felt like I had failed my son because I was only 33 weeks 6 days pregnant. I wanted to cry, scream, run away, anything but accept that my dreams of just another typical hospital birth were being vanquished by a dire situation I couldn't understand. I was prepped, I threw up, I counted my breaths in and out, and did everything I could to calmly accept my fate because a nurse insisted there was no other way. Finally, the doctor returned from his office to explain that I had HELLP and that my pain wouldn't go away unless the baby was delivered. I kissed my husband goodbye, was put under general anesthesia, and woke up to find my baby boy had been transferred to a larger hospital with a NICU suited to his needs. I didn't see him in person until he was three days old, and didn't bring him home until he was three weeks old."