Preeclampsia and HELLP Syndrome took my babies’ lives

Post On Friday, February 03, 2012 By Shawn

Preeclampsia and HELLP Syndrome took my babies’ lives

When I conceived Ava and Noah via In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) at 40 years old I was taking a low dose of high blood pressure medication.  I was never warned about preeclampsia and had no idea that 1 in 3 women carrying multiples develop preeclampsia.  I was so desperate to have a baby after three very long years of trying to conceive that transferring two blastocysts seemed like the right thing to do.

At 18 weeks I was put on bed rest after a trip to the emergency room when my blood pressure spiked.  I remained on bed rest until I was admitted into the hospital at 24 weeks and 5 days for severe preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome.  When I was admitted into the hospital I had a host of other issues, including Carpel Tunnel in my hands due to the fluid I was retaining, breathing issues, severe heartburn, lack of urine production along with dark urine because of protein issues.

I have very little recollection of those ten days I spent in the hospital before my babies were born even though I was awake most of the time; however, I do know that my husband sat by my side and slept in a chair by my bed for two weeks.  He on the other hand can recall everything and is haunted by the memory of possibly losing not only his babies, but his wife too.  My only focus was to keep my babies in my belly at any cost, including my own health.

I was given steroid shots soon after being admitted to help the babies’ lungs develop.  I was on magnesium sulphate otherwise known as “Mag”, nine out of those ten days.  Mag is a medication given to women that have severe preeclampsia to keep you from having life-threatening convulsions or a stroke.  It was absolutely the worst medication I have ever taken.  I remember everything up until they put the Mag in my IV.  I lost all muscle function and felt like I was sitting in a sauna.   Breathing became more difficult, my nose was completely blocked and therefore needed oxygen, which then made my nose bleed due to the dryness.  I was monitored every 15 minutes for blood pressure and blood was drawn every couple of hours depending on the day I was having.  In addition I had two baby heart monitors strapped across my belly which kept losing the babies’ heart signals when they moved and had to be re-positioned on a regular basis throughout the day and night.  So sleep was not really an option.

I was on a clear liquid diet for those ten days with the exception of one meal when I became stable.  I needed to be ready for surgery at any time and because I was carrying twins they did not really want it to happen in the middle of the night but wanted to have the right team in place so they could take the best care of my babies.  With the medical issues I was having and the total lack of sleep my blood pressure at one point had reached 210/190; the doctors told my husband that they were close to giving me the maximum safe dosage of blood pressure medication.  They did not want to max me out on medication in case I had complications after the c-section.

I forgot to mention that I also lost most of my eyesight another nice side effect of Mag.  After two days on Mag the medical team called in an eye specialist to verify if I had retinal detachment caused from the swelling and heightened blood pressure.  They determined that my vision problems were most likely caused from Mag.  In hindsight it was probably a blessing because I spent those ten days listening to my babies heartbeats they were strong and loud and very much alive.  

I know my blood pressure sounds very scary but I never knew what my numbers were or what my body was going through.  My husband tells me I was regularly around 170/150.  I was confident that the doctors would take me as far as I could go before they needed to deliver my babies.  I was being monitored by the best medical team and the most amazing nurses.  They did what I wanted and that was to give my babies a chance to live.  I have a new found respect for those in the medical field and I will forever be indebted to my wonderful doctors and nurses at CMC Main in Charlotte, NC.

After ten days my breathing became more difficult and a chest x-ray confirmed that my lungs were filling up with fluid, the doctors did an ultrasound to determine the position of the babies and scheduled a c-section for that afternoon.

Ava and Noah were born December 28, 2010 at 26 weeks gestational.  According to statistics given by my Doctors my twins were given a greater than 70% chance to survive.  When I’d first gone in they had less than 50% chance.

Noah was born first at 4:16 pm and was the smallest; he was 1lb 7oz and just over 12 inches long.  Ava was born at 4:17 pm weighing 1lb 9 oz and she was also just over 12 inches long.  Ava came out screaming which was music to my ears, a sound I will never forget and it worried me when Noah didn’t make a sound.  As a mother I worried more for Noah because I knew, based on statistics, that boys do not fare as well as girls at 26 weeks.

I was not able to see my babies until December 30, two days after they were born.  The first thing I wanted to do after I woke up was to see my babies.   Nothing could have prepared me for what my 1lb 9oz daughter and 1lb 7oz son would look like, they were perfect in every way they had all their  fingers and toes, red hair like their father when he was young and beautiful button noses and the smallest most delicate bodies I had ever seen - so perfect.  

I know that Ava and Noah held on for me, they knew that I needed to see them, hold them and love them before they went to heaven.  Ava passed away first and Noah seven hours later on December 30, 2010.  Ava and Noah will always live on in our hearts and memories.  They have forever changed our lives.

Preeclampsia changed me both physically and mentally.  Physically, I came home from the hospital taking 32 tablets which included 1200 mg of blood pressure medication.  It took 6 months for my blood pressure to return to 120/80.  My liver and kidneys took several months before my levels were normal.  They have yet to determine if my thyroid gland was injured by all the medication or because of stress.  

I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) six weeks after we lost the twins.  I was shocked by the diagnoses; I thought PTSD was something you were diagnosed with after fighting in a war... not after having a baby.  You never think something like this is going to happen to you, it only happens in the movies.  I remember someone telling me that when you lose your parents you lose your past, when you lose your spouse you lose your present but when you lose your children you lose your future and that is exactly how I feel.

I’m not sure I’ll ever understand why Ava and Noah were taken from us but I have to believe that someday there will be a cure for preeclampsia so that others don’t have to experience this tragedy.

 

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Bless your heart

Posted On Tuesday, April 10, 2012 By Peyton

this is a terrible tragedy. I pray that your prayers will be answered and that you and your husband will one day, have another beautiful baby. I read your other article and seen where you mentioned surrogacy, I wish you the best of luck on that journey. Surrogates have a very special place in heaven because of their selflessness. Please keep us updated and I pray your next post will say you have found a surrogate and expected a child! Take care and God Bless


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