For many years I had tried to talk my husband into having a baby. Finally, in January 1999 we decided that it was time. After trying for only 2 months, I took a home pregnancy test that showed I was pregnant. We were so excited.
My pregnancy seemed normal enough. I was sick for about the first 6 weeks, but nothing out of the ordinary. I didn’t have much appetite, but I continued to gain weight pretty rapidly. Sometime around Thanksgiving I asked my doctor if I should be concerned about my weight gain and he said that it was probably just the food I was eating and to watch my salt. So I did. However, I still retained a lot of fluid and I started having pains in my chest and in my ribs. They didn’t last very long, but it would be a real dull ache. A couple of times I also had dizziness and spots in front of my eyes. I told my doctors about this and they said the pain was probably the baby growing. It upsets me that they didn’t do more checking.
When I was about 34 ½ weeks along, I started having pains in my chest so bad that I couldn’t stand it. My husband took me to the emergency room. It was about 2:00 am on a Sunday morning. They sent me to labor and delivery. They hooked me up to a fetal monitor and took my blood pressure. They said that it was a little high, but nothing to be concerned about. They called the doctor on the phone and she said it was probably just acid reflux. She didn’t come in to see me. She just told the nurse to give me Mylanta and send me home. I couldn’t believe it. I left there hurting just as bad if not worse then when I went in. The next day I took some Tylenol and it seemed to help. By Tuesday, the pain was back and Tylenol wasn’t helping much. I went to the doctor on Wednesday and told him my symptoms. He sent me to the hospital where another one of my doctors was to have blood work done. They were still convinced that it was just acid reflux until my blood tests came back. When they brought the results in to my doctor I heard him say “Hmm, her levels are a little high.” I guess he was talking about my liver enzymes. This is where all the confusion began.
They immediately hooked me up to Magnesium Sulfate to keep me from having seizures. My doctor told me that they were going to keep me until morning and do an amniocentesis to see if the baby’s lungs were fully developed. They would decide from there whether to deliver the baby in that hospital or to send me one where an Infant Intensive Care Unit (NICU) was available. They continued to do blood work. When the results came back the second time my doctor said that my liver enzymes and blood platelet levels were changing too fast to wait until morning. So, I was put in an ambulance and taken to a hospital about 45 minutes away. While I was in the ambulance I asked the nurse what the diagnosis was. She told be that I had HELLP Syndrome. I had no idea what that was. She just told me that it was the most severe form of toxemia.
When I arrived at the other hospital they admitted me and began to prep me for an emergency c-section. They said my platelet levels were dropping too fast to do anything but an emergency c-section. They took me into the operating room at about 5:30 a.m. on Thursday morning and my little guy was born at 5:50 a.m. I was completely under so I don’t remember him being born. That’s one thing I really missed. I had a terrible time waking up, but when I did my husband was there with a picture of our son. It didn’t seem like he was mine. I guess because we hadn’t had anytime to bond. They said that he was fine and that he weighed 5 pd. 6oz. I was glad he was a pretty good size baby for his age.
Throughout the day I had visitors, but I couldn’t stay awake for any length of time. I just thought it was from the anesthesia. I guess that it partly was. They continued doing blood work on me for the rest of day. Apparently, my platelet levels continued to drop. At about 7:30 that evening my nose began to bleed. I didn’t have any idea why, but the nurses told me it was because my platelet levels were so low. They really didn’t seem alarmed. They brought my baby up for me to see at about 8:00 that evening. That was the first time I had seen him in person and I was very emotional which caused my nose to bleed worse. My nose continued to bleed and at about 11:00 p.m. they came in and told me that my blood platelet level had dropped to about 15 and that I was going to need a platelet transfusion. This concerned me a little, but they really didn’t give me a choice. They gave me the transfusion and my nose stopped bleeding. They continued coming in about every hour throughout the night and took my blood. By morning by platelet level was high enough that they didn’t seem concerned. It was then that the anesthesiologist came in and told me and my husband I close I was to having internal bleeding. He said that when platelets get that low that your internal organs start to ooze. I had no idea that I was that serious and I’m kind of glad that I didn’t know. I’m just so thankful for all the wonderful doctors and nurses at the University of Virginia Medical Center. They were just wonderful. I’m even more thankful to God and to my husband for always being there. I couldn’t have made it through all this without them.
Our baby spent 35 days in the hospital before we got to bring him home. It was a stressful time and an unforgettable ordeal. It was all worth it though. He is now a happy, healthy, 19 pound, 6 month old. I’m so thankful for every minute I get to spend with him.
I continue to stress to anyone I know that is pregnant to pressure to doctors into doing further testing if you feel something isn’t right. It’s not worth taking a chance. Thanks for letting me share my story.