My name is Sam and I am a 30 year old paralegal, married, with a gorgeous 3 year old daughter. What you don't know is that I nearly died having my little girl.
"I was 27 years old when I fell pregnant with my daughter, after a long time trying to conceive. I had a good pregnancy with no problems, that is until I hit 34 weeks and 4 days.
From that moment on, my life would never be the same.
On that evening, I developed pain in my chest and stomach that words fail to describe. I checked my blood pressure but it was fine, and I wasn't swelling, no headaches, nothing except chest and abdominal pain. I rang a midwife who advised it was severe indigestion and lectured me on eating smaller meals. It lasted a few hours and then stopped as suddenly as it came. This episode was however, only a warning of what was to come....
The 31st of May 2010 was an ordinary day. I worked my normal hours and felt pretty good, just a bit tired. I came home and started working on my university assignment after dinner until my husband started work at 11.00pm. Just before he left for work, the pain I experienced the couple of days earlier returned, and he made me promise to ring the hospital but I assumed it would stop as suddenly as last time.
After a couple of hours and hopping in and out of the shower in absolute agony, I did ring the State Health Helpline and was again lectured on indigestion as I did not have blurred vision, swelling, headaches and my blood pressure was still ok.
Another hour later and I vomited several times so I called the local maternity ward and spoke to a midwife there who assured me I was fine, but if I continued to vomit I could go up for a maxalon injection.
So I stayed in the shower, my thoughts incoherently bouncing from "how am I going to deal with labour if I can't cope with indigestion???" to "Oh my God, I would do anything for this pain to stop". It was only that my baby's life depended on mine that kept me going. I really cannot describe how painful it was, it hurt to breathe, stand, sit, lie down - like I was exploding or imploding or being gutted with blunt knives repeatedly.
I finally managed to get about two hours sleep from 5am. It was the longest, most horrendous night of my life.
When I woke up I decided to go to work as I had a doctor's appointment that day with my GP. I was still in tremendous pain but I had myself so convinced that the mid-wives must be right and what would I know?
So off I went to work, in agony still. Everyone I worked with and saw commented that I looked "done in" but still no swelling, headaches or blurred vision.
I attended my dr's appointment, walked in and went through the usual, blood pressure, checking bub's heart beat and placement. The dr noted my blood pressure was up (160/100), and I then asked, "could it be because of how much pain I'm in?" The doctor said yes and asked me more about the pain. By now it was in my shoulder and going down my arm as well as still being in my chest and upper-right quadrant.
He got me to lie back down and checked my liver etc. and we discussed what had been going on for the couple of days.
He then said I want you to go up to the hospital and they will probably keep you over night for observation, so go home and pack a bag. He took my bp again and it had settled a little to 145/100.
I did a urine test and although I'm wasn't told, there was protein in the sample.
We talked some more about the pain intensity and he said, no don't pack a bag. Go straight to the hospital and I will ring the doctor to tell them you are coming.
So I went out to the car and burst into tears. Right, I think, what the hell is going?!?
As we live not far from the hospital, I rang my parents and asked them if they could take me up so I didn't have to leave my car out all night (silly of me, I know). I sent my husband a text (he was at work) to let him know but not to worry, it was just a precaution and I'd let him know when I knew more.
So we went to the hospital and found a midwife. I told her my GP had sent me up and had phoned the doctor on duty. I ask if she could let him know I was there and I started telling her about my pain. She took my blood pressure and it was back to normal. She then put me on a monitor and checked on Bub's heartbeat and assured me that she was fine. She then organised a bed for me and then went to get the doctor while my parents went to get an overnight bag for me and let my husband know that I am ok but would probably be kept overnight for observation.
The doctor came and goes through what I've been experiencing. He says we will do some blood tests and scans and see what's going on. He asked me to do another urine test and as I walked down the hall to do so, the midwife chastised me for getting off the bed.
The pathology fellow came to take my blood and had a lot of trouble finding a vein. It seemed to hurt more than normal which I put down to his technique. I sat there thinking, "Geez, could they get someone who knows what they are doing?!!?"
Next thing the doctor came back and said come with me, we will go and scan your baby and liver. Liver? I'm thinking, what does my liver have to do with anything?
I sat on the bed and noticed that my long sleeve of my shirt was soaked with blood. The doctor was busy getting the equipment ready so I didn't say anything and let him do the scan. Then he said there's your baby and she's fine - I felt much more at ease.
I then got up and asked him about how so much blood could come from one little blood test? He replied "I think I'd better tell you about HELLP syndrome.."
Before he could say another word, the pathology fellow came running down the hallway and I thought to myself "Someone must be really sick" only to find out it was my blood test results that were being discussed.
The doctor then told me that my platelets had dropped "through the floor" and my liver enzymes were elevated. I later found out my first result was "77" with the normal range being 150-430. He said I will ring the city hospital and see what they think we should do, but we will probably send you to the city hospital tonight.
At this stage the nurse took me back to my bed and arranged some dinner for me and my parents had just returned with my overnight bag.
The doctor came back and said with a smile, "we are going to have you transported to the city by ambulance with a midwife escort. You will get to have your baby tonight!"
It came across as a good thing, and nothing to worry about. They gave me steriod injections to help my baby's lungs and then inserted a cathether and a drip. My husband arrived just as the ambulance did and I was whisked off to Toowoomba.
The midwife checked my blood pressure every five minutes on the way to the city. Little did I know that during the 50 minute trip I had swelled up beyond recognition. My blood pressure ranged from 137/93 to 157/103.
When we arrived at the city hospital, all was calm and I was whisked into a room with a doctor and midwife and a couple of nurses. The doctor said he would do more blood tests but they would probably start medication (magnesium) and try to prolong the delivery a couple of days.
When the blood test came back I had dropped to 71, so the room suddenly went from calm to frantic. The doctor (who had a really strong accent but I still felt quite confident in his abilities) tried to explain that I was facing multi-organ failure and they would have to do an emergency C-section under a general anaesthetic. He explained they could not do a spinal or epidural as I could bleed into the spine and be paralysed. He told us I could bleed to death but he had the blood bank on stand by.
I was introduced to an anaesthetist but I could not understand him at all, so they brought in another one. He asked me if I was familiar with the v8 supercars and I said yes. He said well it works just like pit lane, there will be lots of people each with their own job to do, some for you, some for the baby etc.
They introduced a midwife (who was very unfriendly) and before I knew it I was whisked off to the operating theatre.
I said goodbye to my husband and really wondered if I would see him again.... we were both in tears and shock.
The doctor told my husband that the baby would be out in about 15 minutes and they would do their best for me.
Meanwhile, I was wheeled into a little room which barely fit the length of the bed. The midwife was telling me that they'd be lots of people in the next room while the two anaesthetists put a local anaesthetic in my hand and then without warning made an incision in my wrist for an arterial line. I could feel the warm, sticky blood literally squirting onto my hand so I just stared at the midwife.
Then I was wheeled into the next room and there was no kidding, around 20 people stood along a wall. "Oh my God" was all I could think. Everything was happening so fast, I was shifted onto the operating table and splashed with cold antiseptic. Then a fellow said to me that he would be pressing on my throat as I was put out and it would feel like I was being strangled. All I can say is, he wasn't wrong and I thought I was going to die. That part still haunts me even now, 3 years later. My platelets dropped to 66 before they started to improve."
I spent 4 days in ICU. I don't remember a lot of it as I was out to it a lot and on strong pain relief (fentanyl) and magnesium drip. I do remember on about the second day I had a big blood clot over the length of my incision and they were concerned whether it was still bleeding underneath. The doctor removed it but all was ok.
I remember the nurses would ask me how my baby was going on each shift change, and I would get upset and say I didn't know. They would then ring for an update and she was always doing well. In the early hours of day 4 they arranged for my baby to be brought down to me in ICU. I was so weak I couldn't hold her, even though she only weighed 4lb 10oz (2090gm). They had to prop us up with pillows and a nurse stayed close by in case. Another nurse kindly took a photo with her phone for me and sent it to me. The nurse that had brought bub down was very annoyed about it and gave me an awful lecture on how dangerous it was for the baby. The other nurses pushed her back out of the way. I am so glad they organised such a lovely surprise for me.
That day I was transferred to the maternity ward which was an awful experience from start to finish. I won't go into the details of my time in the maternity ward, but it was a terrible experience. The nurses weren't used to someone having to stay so long, as they hospital policy was for mum and bub to be discharged within a couple of hours of birth, or about 10-12 hours after a C-section. Needless to say my 3 days on the ward were frowned upon by most.
My baby is now 3 and 1/2 years old. She hasn't suffered any health issues other than reflux for about 18 months.
My biggest concern is the lack of knowledge surrounding HELLP syndrome. I had never heard of it and only met one person who had - and that's because she had it too, about 2 weeks before me in the same hospital.
My lack of symptoms has been surprising to a lot of medical professionals, and my daughter and I are very lucky to be here.
I would like to reiterate to everyone that sometimes things don't go completely "by the book". I never developed blurred vision or headaches. It is so important that we trust our instincts if we think something is wrong. I had allowed myself to believe that these medical professionals knew me better than I knew myself, when I should have pursued it much earlier.
If you ever have doubt about a diagnosis, push for more answers - it might just save your life...."