This is my story.
Posted On Monday, May 16, 2011 by Beth
My husband, Steve, and I had dreamt of a large family for many years before we decided we were ready for our first child. Things were rocky from the beginning with fears of infertility due to endometriosis. Despite these concerns, I became pregnant very quickly, though trouble continued to come our way. 2 days after learning I was pregnant, I started having signs of a miscarriage. I was taken in for an ultrasound and told that the baby that should have been visible by now was not there, in other words, there was an empty gestational sac. I was supposed to be 7 weeks pregnant at this time and the OB assured me that "something" should have been seen. He sent me home and told me to come back in a week for another ultrasound "if you haven't had your miscarriage by then". This week was filled with tears and frustration, but we got through it somehow. Praise God that when we went back, our little gummy bear showed up on the screen just as clear as could be. We had similar scares throughout the pregnancy, two more "suspected" miscarriage events, followed by our OB being unable to find the baby's heartbeat during a routine visit and being taken in for an immediate ultrasound. By the time I was 20 weeks, I finally felt confident that our little boy was with us for good. Before I could let out a sigh of relief, we found outÂ that he had a deformity in his umbilical cord that could mean that he would be stillborn or have heart defects due to the lack of oxygen. After receiving this news, we went on to learn I had Gestational Diabetes and then a preterm labor scare at 32 weeks. Needless to say...it was not an easy pregnancy, though I loved every minute of it and couldn't wait to do it again (only hopefully much smoother next time)! We had tests done that confirmed that "Tucker" had a perfectly healthy heart and we were ready for him to make his debut. I was induced a week early because of my GD as they thought that Tuck was going to be a large baby and would be even bigger if I went to my due date.
I was induced onÂ a Tuesday evening and although I was given the "highest dose of Pitocin" the nurse on staff had ever seen, not much was happening. I went through several different doctors who kept changing shifts and each one kept passing me to the next to make the decision to do a cesarean since I was not progressing. There were a lot of residents on staff over the 36 hours I was in labor and it seemed that none of them wanted to make the call. Finally, on Thursday morning around 7:45 am, I was ready to push. So I pushed...and pushed...and pushed. After 3 hours of pushing (and being told I wasn't "doing it right") the doctors decided they were going to try the vacuum. Around this time one of the doctors noticed that I felt warm and took my temperature. It was 104. I had developed corioamniotisis, which is a uterine infection that you get from premature rupturing of your membranes (it had been 24 hours since the OB broke my water) and also from frequent cervical checks (all those doctors & residents that kept pushing me off). I had to be taken in for a c-section immediately with hopes of avoiding the spread of my infection to the baby, which could mean he would develop pneumonia, meningitis, or sepsis among other things.
The c-section was horrible. I seemed to be "overdosed" on anesthesia so I was shaking uncontrollably during the entire surgery. I was shaking so hard that Steve thought I may have been having a seizure. I could barely hold my head still to look at Tucker when he was born, but I knew he was healthy and safe (and gorgeous!)Â and it was the most relief I had felt in many months.
The doctors discharged me after 2 days although I was complaining of swelling and shortness of breath. I had turned into "that" patient that they felt overreacted to everything so I wasn't taken seriously. I was told my swelling was from my c-section (which can be normal) and my shortness of breath was from my "organs moving back into place now that the baby was not in my belly." Tucker had to stay in the hospital for 7 days on antibiotics to ensure that he did not catch any infection from me. I was so upset that we had to be in the hospital for 5 more days, but now I know that it saved my life.
I continued to be swollen and have shortness of breath but had even convinced myself that I was overreacting so I tried to brush it off. Finally at 5 days PP, I just felt "off". My face was flush, I felt panicky, and breathing seemed to get harder and harder. Since we were in the hospital and I had a bit of cabin fever, I told Steve I was going to the ER just to get looked at. I had hoped they would give me some Lasix to remove some of the fluid on me and that would help my swelling and breathing. I walked downstairs to the ER and was taken back pretty quickly. I guess "short of breath" will get you to the front of the line. I was weighed in and was shocked to see that I was 20 pounds heavier than I was when I went into the hospital to deliver. Basic math tells me that an almost 8 pound baby plus a placenta and tons of fluids should have made me lose at least 10 pounds, so it seemed that I had gained at least 30 in fluid. Doctors kept coming in and out and they sent me back for a chest x-ray. I was waiting for them to come say "Here is some Lasix, have a good night" and send me on my way. Instead, two cardiologists came in and did a mobile ultrasound of my heart. A few minutes later I saw Steve walk through the doors. He said the nurses had taken the baby and sent him down. That didn't make me feel good. Then an OB came in and started talking to me. He said the words that would change my life forever "We think you are in heart failure". My mind went to a million different places but mostly just thought of my precious baby boy that was 5 days old. I thought I was just swollen from the surgery. I tried to convince myself that they were now the ones overreacting and I just wanted to leave. Soon after, my pastor showed up. This was a sign of relief to see someone I trusted so much, but at the same time very scary. They decided to take me back up to labor & delivery to watch me for the night since they weren't sure exactly what was going on and all I could think about wanting to see Tucker and making sure he could be in the room with me. They took me to an ICU room in L&D around midnight and within a few minutes things started getting blurry. I told the nurse who was in the room with me that I was getting a bad neck ache. She asked the normal questions and kept at what she was doing. Soon I told her that I could feel the pain moving from the back of my neck up my skull and finally it stopped in between my eyes. It was the most intense pain I had ever felt and I told her that something was really, really wrong. I now know that was cerebral (brain) swelling causing that intense pain. She went to get the doctors on staff and they came in and took my blood pressure. It was 190/110. Things were getting more blurry and I was seeing stars. They couldn't figure out what was going on. Finally one of the doctors checked my reflexes and my leg literally bounced so violently off the bed that I thought I was going to kick the doctor. That is when she finally said "It's preeclampsia". Soon I started vomiting and I forget pieces of what happened next. I know they came in about every 20 minutes to give me pain medicine for my head and told me that I was very close to having a seizure, or even worse a stroke. I was put on anti-seizure medicine, blood pressure medicine, and some sort of heart medicine because they still didn't know why my heart was acting the way it was. When I would lie still in bed, my heart rate would be around 70, which is normal. If I would so much as sit up in bed, or Heaven forbid walk to the bathroom 4 steps from the bed, my heart rate would bounce up to 150 or 160. Sometimes when I would lie down it would go down to 40. I remember watching it go from 40 to 20 and then down to 0. I asked the nurse if that was right, and she said "Well, you're talking to me aren't you?" And I said yes, but I didn't know at that time if I was dreaming or what was real. The last thing I remember before going to bed was looking at Steve and Tucker and praying to God that I was ready to go if it was my time but to please take care of my two boys. I went to sleep not thinking I would ever wake up.
But I did wake up and I was taken for more tests and everything seemed to be stabilizing. My blood pressure was still very erratic, but the medicine was helping. I lost 13 pounds of fluid the first 24 hours that I was back in the hospital. I was kept in the hospital for 2 more days until my doctors felt comfortable sending me home. My OB told me that what happened to me was so rare that I was going to be the "case" in his med school class that week to see if the students could "diagnose" me.Â He thought this was entertaining, but I somehow did not at the time.
I went home and began another battle, this time with extreme anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. All of the emotions of what happened and having to mentally say "good bye" to my newborn baby was just too much for me to handle. And although the doctors all assured me that I was going to be okay, I had lost all my trust in doctors after I was told that I was fine again and again. I went through several months of feeling like my heart was failing again and did enough research on heart failure and preeclampsia to pass my board exams.
It has been a year now and on the anniversary of "the" night, I cried until I couldn't cry anymore. I feel like I was robbed of so much. I was robbed of the first few months with my little boy because I was so scared that I was dying that I was afraid to get close to him. I was afraid to take pictures with him because I didn't want him to look back at them one day and be sad that I wasn't around anymore. I was robbed of my dream of having more children because the doctors have told me that the same thing could very well happen again.
Preeclampsia took so much away from me. My blood pressure had been "beautiful," as my nurse would say, at every appointment. I had a million other complications, but never thought twice of preeclampsia. Had I known then what I do now, I would have went to the ER sooner and could have caught things before they got as bad as they did. I hope that no other woman has to go through what I have the last year. At a time that I should have beenÂ celebrating the wonderfulÂ gift that is life,Â I was instead strugglingÂ with theÂ realness of my own mortality. Â This is something that I still struggle with and I don't think I will ever truly get over.
Thank the Lord my little boy is healthy. I would do it all over again a million times to have him in my life. He is worth every pain and every tear. I hope that my story can show women just how scary preeclampsia can be. The most important thing that I have learned is that you have to be your own advocate. If you think something is wrong, trust your instinct. No amount of medical school or experience can override how well you know your own body.
I know that I was one of the lucky ones. I haveÂ come in contact withÂ so many women who have lost their children, and men that have lost their wives, to preeclampsia. I am still here and I have my little boy, but my life is forever changed. This is a disease that is not taken seriously. My doctor never once said that word "Preeclampsia" to me throughout 9 months of pregnancy. Had I known any of the signs, I could have saved myself so much heart ache.