I was always told that life was like a rollercoaster ride. I never knew
Posted On Thursday, July 08, 2010 by Christine
I was always told that life was like a rollercoaster ride. I never knew what that meant until March 5, 2008. Here is my story.
I guess you can say I was living the "American Dream". I married my High School sweetheart and bestfriend whom I met at age 11. Josh was busy climbing the corporate ladder and I was traveling the state of Iowa as a motivational speaker for high school seniors. We bought our first home, a Craftsman/Stucco home that we fell in love with at first sight. We remodeled the kitchen and added on a baby suite.
We had everything planned out in the right order and everything was going so perfect. We planned a "Baby Moon" and came home with the news that we were expecting our first child.
The firs 5 months of the pregnancy went perfect. No morning sickness and only cravings of Egg McMuffins and Orange Juice. All of my doctor appointments went well and there was nothing to be concerned about. That was all about to change.
February 14, 2008: My husband took me on his work trip and I stayed locked up in a hotel for 3 days ordering room service like crazy. During the time in the hotel I started feeling weird. I don't want to say I felt "sick", instead I felt weak and dizzy and hot all the time. Every time I got up my vision would start going black and I would think I was about to pass out. I also was gaining TONS of weight! My husband informed me that my nose had doubled in size! I could push my index finger into my leg and there would be a mark for quite awhile. I knew I was retaining LOTS of water! I told my husband the symptoms but we both just figured it was "pregnancy".
March 2, 2008: The symptoms were getting worse and worse. This night my husband and I headed for our first Prenatal Class at the local hospital. We just happened to take the last class in the series first. Our class was called "Expecting the Unexpected". There were probably 15 expectant women there -- all were about to give birth. I was the least pregnant out of all of them...and by a lot. I remember sticking my belly out as far as possible because I wanted to look more pregnant because I was having such horrible symptoms and I didn't want them to know that I was only 27 weeks along. During the class we had to play a game. The women went to one side and the men to the other. We were standing for about 15 minutes and I was swaying side to side and wanted to sit so bad I could almost cry. I turned to the lady next to me to ask if she was hot and if she was hurting standing and she quickly said she was fine. I didn't want to be the dramatic pregnant lady so I tried to hold in my pain and stay alert. The whole time my husband was looking at me across the room as if to say with his eyes, "Stop being dramatic." Not once during the class did they talk about preeclalmpsia or HELLP Syndrome. If she had my life would have been saved right at that moment. I would have known I was in serious trouble. After the class we walked to the car and my husband said, "Christine, you were the least pregnant woman by almost 2 months and you were the only one acting up." I explained that I didn't know what my problem was, but that I was really sick and I couldn't help my actions. I wasn't trying to be dramatic.
March 3, 2008: It was my 27th Birthday. My husband took me to dinner after work and I explained to him that my symptoms were getting unbearable. During my presentation that day I almost passed out while talking to 500 seniors at the local high school. He again commented that my face was SO swollen and we joked about how huge my feet had become in 3 weeks. From a size 8 to 10. I also had packed on over 40 pounds in 3 weeks.
March 4, 2008: My sister-in-law called me at 2:45pm. I had not talked with her for 5 months and so I answered the phone. She sounded so concerned as she asked, "Christine, is everything ok with your pregnancy? I had a dream last night about you and wanted to call and check up on you." Michelle is an OB nurse and so I told her all about my symptoms and she immediately said, "You are in critical condition. I am pretty sure you have HELLP Syndrome. You need to get to the hospital NOW." I promised her I would and she insisted that she talk to my husband. I lied and said he was not there and promised her I would see the doctor in the morning. She didn't feel comfortable with me waiting until the morning, but I talked her into letting me wait. What she didn't know is that I had NO intention of going to see the doctor. I was not about to be seen again as the dramatic pregnant lady. Why did my sister-in-law call? We hadn't talked in forever.
March 5, 2008: Typical morning. I was on the verge of passing out in the shower every second while getting ready for work. I actually had to hold myself up in the shower and one flight of stairs would take me 2 minutes to climb. My vision was changing. I started seeing little floating dots in the air and there was a black ring around any image. I was, uncharacteristically, running late for work so that was a good excuse to go in and see the doctor - to cover my lateness! Maybe Michelle's warning was stuck in the back of my mind.
I walked into the office and for the first time ever I didn't have to wait in the lobby with all the other women. The nurse took one look at my face, took my blood pressure and literally ran to get the doctor. I explained that I had been having symptoms for almost 3 weeks. The doctor looked at me and told me I was critical and would be delivering my baby TODAY. Looking back I can see the faces of the nurse and doctor. They were scared and sad for me. They knew what I was about to face. As I was wheeled over to the hospital I called my husband and said, "Honey, you need to get to the hospital now. I am having the baby." And then I hung up. I didn't mean to hang up but there were SO many nurses and doctors surrounding me....asking questions.....poking me with needles....starting IV's. It was crazy.
I'll never forget seeing my daughter on the ultrasound that day. The nurse explained that she had stopped growing 2 weeks prior and that she was 15 inches long and was about 2 pounds. I was lucky to have been a first time mom. I had no idea just how serious everything was. My nurse that day was Michelle. Just like my sister-in-law, Michelle. How ironic.
The days in the hospital are a blur. I was put on magnesium sulfate and other medications. They inserted a catheter so that I wouldn't have to get up to use the restroom just in case of a seizure. My bed was padded down and the lights were low. The only sound in the room was my baby's heart beat. I luckily was able to keep her inside me a bit longer so that she could receive steroid shots for her lungs. Here is what I remember from the hospital -- the clock. I stared at that clock every second.
March 10, 2008: My liver and kidneys were completely shutting down. My blood pressure was off the charts. I needed to deliver the baby to save my life. They decided to induce the labor and have me give birth naturally. That would end up not working and I really do feel that this one thing saved my life.
March 11, 2008: Three nurses and two doctors were in my room at around 7am. I can't say I remember much but I do know that they had to get my baby out right away. One of the nurses handed me a phone to call my parents. I was SO calm as I said, "Mom, don't worry. I'm fine. I am going into surgery now. Everything will be ok. I love you." From there I remember being wheeled into a room with about 4 doctors and 11+ nurses. A nurse strapped me down to the table, sdly looked into my eyes and said, "You'll be ok. I am here with you." From there I remember nothing.
I am told my daughter was born at 8:15am weighing 2 pounds 5 oz and 15 inches long. I wouldn't meet or see her for 3 days.
I had 2 platelet transfusions and 2 blood transfusions. I remained in critical condition for the first 48 hours. But then I started getting better and better. The second day I was alert and I asked if I could see a picture of my baby girl. I was so jealous and upset that everyone had seen her and I had not. My husband brought me a picture which I looked at with a flashlight because the room was being kept dark. My first thought was "she has my nose!"
I held Delaney for the first time and she was SO tiny. She reminded me of a little baby bird with all of the fur/hair that covered her body. You could see through her skin and she was hooked up to so many machines. She had a long road ahead of her being born at 27 weeks.
I arrived home on March 15, 2008: Going home was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I felt like someone had ripped/stole something from me and sent me home empty. I felt a piece of me was missing. I slept every night with a pink hippo stuffed animal I received at the hospital. It smelled like the hospital and smelled like her.
Delaney would spend the next 60 days in NICU. It was a rollercoaster ride. She would be doing so great for 5 days and then it would be followed by 6 bad days. She had one Code Pink where she quit breathing and she also got a blood infection. I'll never forget the doctor sitting down with my husband and me and basically stating that this might be fatal for her.
Every day I would be at the hospital and every night I would head home only to stare down the hallway at that room. That pink baby room. The one that I put my heart and soul into to make it so perfect for my little girl. I stood there wondering if I would be lucky enough to bring her home someday. I prayed every minute...every second....every hour. I prayed crazy things such as "God, if you let me bring her home I promise to never get mad at her...to never complain." I still get sad to know that I will never know what her first cry sounded like. But I am so thankful to hear her cry every time she throws her 2 year old tantrums.
Delaney came home at 4 pounds 11 oz on a heart and lung monitor. We were just starting to get our life in order. We had been home for 3 weeks and then the Flood of 2008 hit Iowa. I also was informed that my father had stage 3 cancer. And I also followed that up with two more major surgeries.
We lost our home in that flood. Everything we owned....every physical memory....and the Baby's room. The flood took it all. We were left with nothing. I moved in with my parents and cared for my preemie daughter and took my father to all his chemo and radiation appointments. Through it all I was taking care of everyone but myself. My husband was living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with our friends because he had to keep the income coming in. It was such a hard time for us.
I began eating and gaining weight like crazy. Food became my primary source of comfort.
December 13, 2009: I weighed 210 pounds. A good friend, Michelle - yes, another Michelle! - called me and told me it was time to get off the couch and make a difference. To use my speaking kills and story to save lives and spread the word on preeclampsia. She also told me to enter the Mrs. Iowa pageant. Did I mention I weighed 210 pounds? I registered to enter the pageant, knowing it would motivate me to lose weight and give me a platform to spread awareness about preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome.
May 21, 2010: Won Mrs. Iowa. Lost over 75 pounds!
July 12, 2010: I will be featured on OPRAH for weight loss and goals.
July 21-22, 2010: Competing for Mrs. United States in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Delaney is now a happy, healthy 2 year old. I never did live up to my promise to God to not complain or get mad at her, hehe. My husband and I currently live in Schaumburg, Illinois. He took a work promotion and we had to relocate. I spend my time between Iowa and Illinois and really I couldn't tell you right now which one is more "home."
I am in great health and am living in a dream. I have been receiving emails from across the United States from women sharing their stories of Preeclampsia/HELLP and also about other trials in their lives. I am traveling and speaking about Preeclampsia/HELLP for all the Mothers, Sisters, Wifes and Babies that are not with us today because of this disease. I don't know why I was so lucky, but I do know that everyone has a story. And I will use my story to save lives and motivate others.
We all have a story to tell. Everybody should get out there and share it. My story is a story about Preeclampsia/HELLP Syndrome. The disease that nearly took my life has given me life back.