"I am a mom first, a nurse for a wellness company educating and preventing chronic diseases, I am a massage therapist. I love photography and try to do yoga to find inner peace. My husband and I raise a blended family of 5; two of the 5 are ours together. We are currently trying to dig ourselves out the whole that having a preemie 3 months early put us into with being unable to work and all the extra expenses it puts on a family. There is a lot to learn about the whole journey."
I couldn't breathe fully, or get a good deep breathe. I felt run down and tired. I had headaches on and off. I was nauseated. I didn't feel myself.
Little did I know that my thanksgiving break from the last month of nursing school would be spent being admitted to the local hospital in Kenosha, WI. , St. Catherine's by my OB doctor, Dr. Fifield on November 20, 2012, Tuesday for what was suspected as pre-eclampsia. Looking back, for a few days I wasn't feeling well. Friday I had indigestion, so I thought. Saturday and Sunday I didn't feel right, not much of an appetite and I told my family I felt nauseous. I spent the day in bed laying down doing homework.
Monday in class I would get hot on and off and I thought I had heartburn.
On Tuesday The office staff had me go into the office when I called to tell them I was fine, but wanted them to know that yesterday I had the worst "heartburn" ever. I have never had it before so, I didn’t know what it was supposed to feel like. I told them what I did to try to relieve the pain, by taking tums when I got at 7pm, I took a hot bath, again consumed more tums...and still I didnt feel well. By 9pm I took ranitidine, the max strength that was on the sheet they gave me of approved meds in the beginning of my pregnancy to take at home. I waited for it to kick in and it didn't resolve the pain I had under my sternum that was heartburn. I took more tums, another hot bath and at 10:30pm still was in pain. I managed through it, and at 3:30 am when I was getting ready to go to the E.R. fell asleep next to my 2 year old when she called, out of pure exhaustion and tears.
I woke up that morning and went along with my day feeling okay. I went in at 1:30pm to see the doctors. The medical assistant took my urine, Bp and rechecked my Bp. It was 160/118 with a 2+ of protein in my urine. 2 or more bp's of 140/90 with protein in the urine classify pre-Eclampsia as mild. Severe pre-Eclampsia is labeled as 2 bp's of 160/110. She put me in a room and had me lay on my left side on the table while I waited another 5 mins so she could re-check my Bp.
The doctor came in and asked if I would drive across the street to the hospital because she wanted to monitor me since my Bp was extremely high for myself. It usually runs about 90/60. Along with the protein in the urine this could be a sign of pre-Eclampsia, even though I didn't fit the classic signs of being a first time mom, or having a new dad, being in the third trimester, or having it before.
Yes, I had stress from school, but I didn't think anything more than similar work stress. They asked if I was having headaches, or had changes with my vision. No. I had them sometimes but, i was a nursing student and mom. I would have never thought it was my blood pressure. I felt... not 100% but, I figured it was from being tired from staying up studying and also taking care of the other children at home.
My husband left work to meet me as everything hit home really fast. He asked why I needed to go to the hospital and I told him what they suspected. He wondered what that meant, and as I looked it up on Google in my cell phone, I couldn't bring myself to tell him “it’s fatal". I just said it’s "not good" and didn't want to scare him. I was trying to stay mainly in work mode, and not personal mode, so I didn't freak out. Overall, I was always very healthy; I get a cold now and then, but have no health problems, diseases, or disorders. I'm 5'0" tall and normally weigh about 105. My pregnancy weight right now was 112 and they say the baby is normal size and I'm doing well. We heard the heart beat at the office visit.
Preeclampsia causes thousands of women and babies to die or get very sick each year from a dangerous condition called preeclampsia, a life-threatening disorder that occurs only during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Preeclampsia and related disorders such as HELLP syndrome and Eclampsia are most often characterized by a rapid rise in blood pressure that can lead to seizure, stroke, multiple organ failure and death of the mother and/or baby. HELLP syndrome happens to 0.2% off all pregnancies."
On 11-20-12 My AST was 49 and high (enzyme released into blood when the liver or heart are injured) ALT was 33 and normal (tests liver)Red blood cell count was 3.59 which were low. (Tests for anemia) Hemoglobin 11.8 low (protein that carries oxygen to organs & tissues, shows anemia if low) Hematocrit was 33.0 was low (proportion of total blood volume composed of red blood cells)
Platelets were 104 which were low (measures how many platelets are in blood. helps to clot the blood) normal is 150,000-400,000.
AST 45 high
ALT 30 ok
RBC count 3.44 low
Hemoglobin 10.7 low
Hematocrit 30.4 low
Platelets 76 low, with no platelet clumping seen and confirmed with slide estimate.
The severity of HELLP syndrome is measured according to the blood platelet count of the mother and divided into three categories, according to a system termed "the Mississippi classification."
Class I (severe thrombocytopenia): platelets under 50,000/mm3.
Class II (moderate thrombocytopenia): platelets between 50,000 and 100,000/mm3.
Class III (AST > 40 IU/L, mild thrombocytopenia): platelets between 100,000 and 150,000/mm3 (source)."
"From the fluids my hands and feet swelled and looked like sausages. I couldn't move my wedding band and it hurt my feet to walk. At one point I know my b/p was 240/180. My liver enzymes were high, and I had low platelets. Along with hemolysis which is the breakdown of red blood cells they think it might be HELLP syndrome.
In the morning, Dr. Fiefield came in and said they would be transferring me to Froedtert im Milwaukee, WI and didn’t give me the choice of a hospital so I could be with specialists that know more about HELLP syndrome and they do have a level 3 neonatal intensive care unit if needed. She reintegrated that I didn't meet to typical case guidelines for this syndrome and they were somewhat taken back by it all.
I than was transferred to Froedtert on Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at noon by ambulance with a nurse by side. I tried to stay calm and keep my spirits. i tried to make small talk to distract myself. I was given magnesium sulfate to reduce the risk of seizures from the severe preeclampsia. This made me feel like my whole body was on fire. I was transferred all for a rare life threatening condition known as HELLP syndrome hoping they can help me and my baby.
There were so many people there. There were 2RN's waiting for me. People were drawing blood. Doctors were coming in. I cried while they told me staff members would come in to tell me what to expect with a preemie and if I had questions for them - to ask. My husband finally arrived and a neonatologist came in to explain what could happen, and how to prepare ourselves for the road ahead with health problems and disorders. Things we may need to expect with being under developed, such as immature lungs and eyes. Being blind or deaf.
A doctor came in and did an ultrasound of the baby. This showed absent end diastolic flow. This means there is fetal vascular stress and there is placental insufficiency. We were told he wasn't getting appropriate oxygen and nutrients. The baby was positioned in breech footling position. In this position, one or both of the baby's feet point downward and will deliver before the rest of the body so, a C-section was needed. With a classic C-section like I had, I would never be able to have another vaginal birth if more kids were in my future due to the risk of uterine rupture. This is also better, since the stress of labor may not be well tolerated by a baby of 26 weeks gestation. Once they decided I would immediately have a C-section, I called my mom and started crying, she came right away to be with me. She had an idea of what to expect because my mom had me 3 months early and I was premature. There, at Froerdert, I needed to deliver my son unexpectedly by emergency classic C-section at 26 weeks gestation, to keep us both alive. Prior I was given an intramuscular injection in my gluteus of beta methadone which helps the surfactant, a protein that keeps small air sacs in the lungs from collapsing in the baby. It helps gets the baby's lungs ready for their big job of breathing early.
My husband stayed off work the rest of the week to stay with me in the hospital. He was just as scared as I was. He was the best support I could have. This was our family. Our baby, his son, that we were preparing to bring into the world way to early. We weren't ready at home with car seats and clothes. He wasn't supposed to come into the world until February 2013, not November 2012. This was something we perfectly planned for February and now our plan was thrown off course and the world had other ideas for my body and baby. The best thing to do would be deliver the baby early, as the placenta was deteriorating because my blood supply was being shunted to my vital organs, and the uterus is not one of them. There is no known origin for HELLP syndrome. Nothing I did caused this. I did everything right and yet this situation was not right. I was ripped off of my pregnancy experience, I wouldn't get to grow a large tummy to cuddle and caress, I wouldn't get to let others feel kicks and punches, I wouldn't get to do pictures and molds like I planned. I felt guilty somehow, no one would understand that.
I was wheeled back, just like for surgery, they intubated me, and prepared me to cut through my layers of skin and muscles into my warm cozy home of the uterus to remove my baby so I would survive along with my baby. I felt like I was being crucified, my arms out, my clothes gone, and a sheet pulled up towards the ceiling below my neck. No one was with me. Not my husband or my mom. What if I didn't wake up? 2 people were complaining, another 2 people were giggling, while my hair cover slid into my eyes, I was crying and I was alone. My husband was not allowed in with me. I laid there and prayed for our lives. I remember nothing else.
My husband tells me they immediately took our baby, our son, over to Children's hospital to be admitted to Neonatal Intensive Care unit. We had no names ready. We would kid around at home with names like Willy Nelson or Norah jones but decided on Maxwell William."
I wasn't allowed to see Max for 2 days until my blood pressure was improved, I could stand, and I was off of the magnesium sulfate I.V. Its all a huge blur. My husband had seen him, I hadn't. Other guests had already seen our micro preemie, I had not, this was hard to swallow when I watched visitors go down from my mommy and baby room to see my son, when I still had not for the first time yet. Tears would come to my eyes as they left my room to travel the twists and turns to the NICU without me. When I finally did, I thought I knew what to expect, but I still lost control of my emotions shortly after being able to see my baby in his plastic pod isolette that would be his new womb until he was discharged into my arms. To see him so small, yet so strong amazes me. He breathes so fast, and fights so hard to stay in this world. Things in life are quickly put into perspective of what is important and not important now. Houses, cars and possessions are no longer priority- others can have it just keep our baby alive.
Our son Max, has since then, been taken off of his breathing ventilator, he has also, had a pic line inserted now, has an infection that the doctors can't find the source of, has had 3 attempts of a straight cath's without success, Friday, November 30,2012 had a spinal tap, and Sunday December 2,2012 had a blood transfusion. More blood transfusions have been done since then, he has moved to having his oxygen by nasal cannula. All internal lines have been removed now. He is fed by a tube until he is big enough to suck, swallow, and breathe on his own. He doesn't need any blood pressure meds, heart meds, or other meds. We are lucky, other preemies do. There is no word to when he is coming home. So, our visits consist of driving to Milwaukee and hanging out with him at the hospital while he grows and strengthens to come home.
I came home on a Sunday and went back to nursing school on Monday along with clinicals to finish my semester as a nursing student. What else was I suppose to do?
2weeks after the birth my Bp check was 130/90. Still high. 2weeks after that it was within normal range, but not my normal range. Finally at my last visit the reading was 90/69, my normal. This is good. They say with future births you might have this again. They are still doing research through the Pre-Eclampsia foundation and March of dimes. So many things are unknown with HELLP syndrome. I was just one of the small percentages to go through it.
HELLP syndrome is listed as a "rare disease" by the Office of Rare Diseases (ORD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This means that HELLP syndrome, or a subtype of HELLP syndrome, affects less than 200,000 people in the US population.
The head of high risk OB there suggested still studying me since I am different than the typical case, and maybe there is an underlying disease or disorder like lupus that triggered this. Of course, being in healthcare, I will do whatever I can so another family, mom and baby, can learn from this and possibly not have their pregnancy cut short and emotions stirred up. There may be nothing, which we would like, but if there is, we can link things together possibly. My OB doctors in Kenosha have been phenomenal, they didn't think I was crying wolf, had me go right in to check things out. Dr fifield didn't question anything and was on top of all of the signs and sent me to be admitted. Dr. Fagan was on call at the hospital and was thorough by checking into other possibilities, and Dr. Robinson was supportive and encouraging by phone as my primary OB over the weekend while I was in Milwaukee.
Not a lot of people know what HELLP syndrome is. Some professionals don't fully understand it either. If more awareness can be drawn to it and research and education can be done, we will have a start to reducing morbidity and mortality of babies and moms.
Now, since a few months have passed, I have conquered the challenge of graduating with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. It took me an extra semester. My school was not understanding of my extenuating circumstances. We were able to bring Max the micro preemie home 2/11/2013 but, still on oxygen. It was different learning to adjust to always having a cord. He is now 10 pounds as of 4/29/13. 5/21/13 released of oxygen! I have a cordless baby now!!
As of 4/23/13 I have a BSN degree and my baby is home.
It was overwhelming to have his first birthday and be flooded with emotions at various times of the day. We survived and we are here to tell our story!"