In the hospital, my pressures stayed the same. They did more labs and urine tests which were all fine except high protein. The swelling, however, was getting worse and worse. I had gained over 20 lbs of fluid in a few days and I was puffed up everywhere, even up my back- it was getting pretty uncomfortable! This went on for 5 more days until I woke up on a Sunday morning around 7am (30weeks and 5 days) to some terrible abdominal pain. I woke my husband up saying my stomach hurt. He got the nurse so I could ask for some indigestion medication. I was sure my stomach being upset was due to me chugging a bunch of yucky hospital orange juice the evening before when our little guy wasn’t cooperating during nightly fetal monitoring. I drank some milk, took some Maalox and turned on my side… nothing was helping and it got much worse very fast. Pretty soon I was barely able to express the amount of pain I was feeling. This is where everything starts to become very fuzzy. More and more staff was in my room asking me questions and setting up for ultrasound. I was asked over and over again if the pain was worse on my right or left side and sure enough the right side is where I began to feel the most intense pain. Before I knew it I was being transferred over to the labor and delivery side and I knew something was very wrong- pressures were still climbing. Out of nowhere while they were still assessing me in L&D, my doctor shows up. She wasn’t on call and wasn’t supposed to be in that day. No one had even paged her! She just wanted to check on me and when she got to my room and found it empty with the bed gone she knew something was up. I still don’t know what made her come in right at that moment but it’s a miracle in my mind. I had never been so relieved to see a person’s face in my life! She recognized what was wrong right away, checked my labs, immediately started high dose IV Magnesium, and gave me the news. Class 1 HELLP Syndrome. And we have to deliver now! I remembered learning about HELLP in nursing school but I didn’t remember any specifics, just that it was the bad one. My liver enzymes were close to 3000, platelets down in the 30s, and blood pressure now 226/124. She told me there’s no way we have time to induce labor and I wouldn’t be able to tolerate it anyway, I needed to have an emergency cesarean. I remember begging to not be put under general anesthesia, I remember feeling like I was on fire, I remember trying so hard to listen to and follow instructions while going back into the OR but feeling like I didn’t’ have control over my body, I remember hearing someone groaning and yelping loudly then realizing it was me, and I remember my husband frantically calling family to rush to the hospital. Baby was coming! (He told me later this was the point when he was told to contact next of kin and prepare for the worst, there were a few moments he truly thought he’d be a single father. It kills me to think of the pain and fear he was also feeling -he’s the real hero in this story, at least I got the drugs to not have to “live” it)."
Our NICU doctors had been giving us encouraging news all along; Harrison was doing wonderful and was a fighter. He only needed breathing support for 5 days (thanks to my doctor who had me in the hospital in enough time to give me betamethasone), he was packing on the ounces, and would soon be ready to learn to nurse. He just needed time. Our NICU stay drug on and on and on and was full of hectic traveling back and forth and exhausting long hours. I hated watching such a tiny sweet thing get poked and prodded non-stop but he took it like a champ, met all his goals, and taught my whole family what true strength is. We had so many special “firsts” in that NICU and the staff made every effort to allow us to be involved in everything. 6 weeks to the day was the magic number! It was difficult to say goodbye to all the amazing nurses and doctors but we were excited (and nervous) to be at home. So there we were- a little family with a tiny baby… and our lives could finally re-begin. Harrison continues to amaze us every day and will be one in a week! Sure I still feel a little cheated when I hear perfect full term birth stories or think about the first days, but looking at his little face is an immediate cure. We may not have had the typical start but I’d do it all a million times over if it means I get to be that sweet boy’s mommy."