I discovered I had HELLP at 33 weeks and it was only because I thought I was having gallbladder attacks. The pain in the upper right-hand side of my chest was excruciating. It happened to me twice, and the second time, I was also throwing up. I had terrible acid reflux issues during my entire pregnancy, but believed (and was told by my OB) that this is the norm for any pregnancy. I was popping Tums like no tomorrow. I'm interested to read that many of you had back pain on the upper sides of your bodies--I did too. I was going to my OB every two-threeweeks (since I'm over 35 and this was my first pregnancy), and my blood pressure was absolutely fine. I had even had an ultrasound 4 days before I went to the maternity ward's triage, and although the baby was small, no problems were detected at that point.
When I arrived at the triage, I really believed that my gallbladder was the issue, or that maybe I was just being silly for being there at all. They did a barrage of tests, and when the nurse told me gently "You understand that you're not going home, right?", I just couldn't believe it. I was admitted, and the goal was to get me to 35 weeks and then induce me. My BP was not overly bad, but my liver enzymes were very high and my Blood platelet count was low. I had no idea how serious it could get, even though I had the time to do the research. I guess I had the blinkers on, because research is part of my job, so I don't know how I missed this site. Two days before my scheduled induction, I suddenly developed the worst headache I've had in my life and began throwing up. Of course, I was already in hospital, which was good--but this was happening at night when all of the high risk md's were gone for the day, and the senior resident on staff decided to induce me instead of moving to a c-section right away. I think that was a big mistake. They were monitoring my BP and all of the various counts, but honestly--when it kicked off, it REALLY kicked off. I couldn't even talk, I was so ill. After 5 hours, my BP went through the roof (200/100) and it was time for my emergency c-section. What followed was the most terrifying 1 1/2 hours of my life.
I'd been in hospital for two weeks, having my blood taken twice a day every day. The anesthesiologists (there were 3) working on me could not find any viable veins. My blood platelet count was so low that I needed both a blood and a platelet transfusion.They were slapping my arms, my feet, using an ultrasound to find my veins, whatever they could try! They were trying to thread stents into both of my wrists for so long. Now they were worried that I would bleed out, so they transferred me to a regular OR, not just the maternity c-section room. My poor hubby was kept out, of course, and was frantic with worry. I just lay there on the gurney while they worked on me...it was terrifying. The nurses kept saying things like "You're doing so well sweetheart" and I would just nod and stare at the ceiling while inside I was screaming in pain and totally convinced that I was going to die and my baby was not going to have a mother. The interesting thing was that by now it was 8:00 a.m, and a shift change happened. The three male anesthesiologists that had been unsuccessfully trying to find veins for an hour were replaced by three female anesthesiologists...and they had the stents in place within 20 minutes! Go girls! One in my left foot, one on my main wrist artery and one on my throat. The last thing I remember is the nurse putting the iodine on my tummy...
...and I woke up in the ICU very late that same day. My daughter, Charlotte, had been delivered at 8:28 am, weighing 4.4 lbs. She was in an incubator in the NICU, but was very strong and doing well. On my second day in the ICU, they brought her down to me (she was out of the incubator, obviously!) and I was able to breastfeed her briefly. There are pictures of me meeting her and I look so awful, so out of it. But she was bright-eyed and very alert! She's been like that since day one--very feisty. They called her "super preemie" in the NICU. I spent three days in the ICU and even had an MRI because of the crazy visual disturbances and colour-washes/floaters that I had. Thankfully all was normal on that front. Vision-wise, I had severe macular edema, and my retinas had detached (although thankfully they did not tear) from the pressure.
Thinking about what happened to me still can make me well up. I am so lucky to be here and so thankful that my daughter survived and is thriving. Three months on, my vision is about 95% what it was, but I'm hopeful that it will return to normal. I fought like crazy to breastfeed, and was eventually successful at establishing this--it took a great deal of work because my body just felt so broken down. On the HELLP front, the specialist that I saw afterwards said that there is always an chance that HELLP could occur again in a second pregnancy, but that they would put me on baby aspirin at 10 weeks and monitor me. I also asked him about the new theories that pre-eclampsia and HELLP are early warning signs of higher than average risks of stroke and heart disease--he got very excited by the question and said that this was his line of research, his baby, and no he didn't think that I fit that category. Apparently my placenta didn't exhibit the kind of vascular issues that most HELLP/Pre-Eclampsia sufferers do. (At least that's what I got from the conversation--he didn't give me alot of detail, to be honest). Good to know that my placenta went to further scientific research!
Finding this site, and this board has been immensely helpful. To those of you who lost their precious babies...honestly there are no words. I cry every time I come to this site and read your stories. I cry at the success stories, too because it brings back memories. I am so grateful that both me and my daughter are doing ok. We're all survivors and we share a bond, even though we'll never meet. Thank you, ladies, for bringing HELLP and Pre-eclampsia to light and sharing your thoughts and stories with me!