My HELLP Story

Post On Wednesday, April 03, 2013 By Laura

My HELLP Story

On March 18th, 2012, John (my husband) and I found out we were expecting with our first child. It was only the month before that we started trying and prayed that God would bless our family. Due to my family's history of miscarriages and struggles to become pregnant, I did not expect for this event to be taking place so soon. At one of our first appointments, we found out that the baby would be due on my mother’s birth date, November 22nd, which fell on Thanksgiving Day 2012.

I can pretty much sum up the first trimester with two words: Morning Sickness. Pineapple seemed to do the trick most of the time, but it was a rough beginning!

In June, at 16 weeks and 6 days, we found out that our family ratio would be 2:1 boys to girls! That's right; we were expecting a baby boy!  Not only was I excited to know what I was having,  but around that same time my morning sickness was finally out of the picture and the remainder of the second trimester was a breeze!

The third trimester was for the most part, uneventful. Similar to the second trimester, I felt great, and continued to work until my due date.  However, later in my third trimester.  I started noticing some swelling in my ankles, which the Dr.'s assured me was typical with pregnancy. It was recommended that I keep my feet elevated and to wear compression socks, but it was nothing to be concerned about.  Around mid-October my family got together to go pumpkin picking, and while we were there my vision started to blur in my left eye. I mentioned this at my next appointment, but the doctor did not seem to think it was related to my pregnancy.

The week before my due date, I started getting antsy, thinking everyday was going to be the day he would make his appearance. Around that time, we even had a false alarm when I woke up in the middle of the night with severe abdominal pain that lasted about 6 hours. The Dr.'s believed this to be the flu, and I was treated  accordingly. At my 40 week appointment, we scheduled my induction to take place on November 29th, so that would be the due date unless things started naturally.

During the next week, John and I stayed close to home and tried to move things along naturally with a lot of walking. On Black Friday, John and I shopped from morning until night. By the end of the day, my legs and ankles were SO swollen, that I was genuinely concerned that something bad was going to happen. Additionally, I developed a cold over the weekend which quickly led to fluid in my lungs. I went to my family doctor at the beginning of the week. My vitals were regular, but the doctor did note the fluid in my lungs and said it may be the start of pneumonia. I was put on antibiotics, and hoped and prayed it would start clearing up before the big day!

The day before I was scheduled to be induced I had my last appointment, and this is when the birth story of our baby boy starts really making some progress. As usual, we started the appointment with the nurse taking my blood pressure. A healthy 120/80. Perfect! But as the doctor was listening for the baby's heartbeat, she hesitated and listened much longer than normal. She explained that she thought she was hearing an arrhythmia. To be safe, she asked that we head over to the hospital and be put on the fetal monitor.

We arrived at the hospital and headed to labor and delivery. It was not long until I was hooked up to all the monitors. John and I were relieved to find that our baby boy was healthy! However, Mama was not! From the time of my appointment just a few hours before, my blood pressure that was regular throughout my entire pregnancy started going haywire! I went from having a blood pressure of 120/80 to 140/100.  Things weren't making sense, so the doctor on the floor ordered some blood tests.

A doctor who fills in for my OB-GYN group was on the floor that day. I met her for the first time as she entered the room with my blood results. She explained to John and I that I had something called HELLP syndrome. She guaranteed me that the baby was healthy, but the only way for me to start getting better was to deliver the baby as soon as possible. She recommended an emergency C-section within the hour. I was a mess! Not only was I about to have major surgery, but I had to be put under general anesthesia, which meant that I would not be able to see or hold my baby when he was born. I just hadn't prepared myself for the possibility of a C-section. I was in shock. Everything was happening so fast. I went from having an uncomplicated pregnancy to a very complicated one in an extremely short amount of time.

John Robert was born at 7:29 pm on the 28th of November. I met him a couple hours later when John placed him in my arms. I am so thankful that my mom videotaped that special moment. Otherwise I wouldn't have remembered it with all of the medications I was on. I know I was on a couple different medications, including some sort of pain control medication, and magnesium sulfate. This medication  kept me from seizing, but also kept me in the labor and delivery unit for 48 hours, as they waited for my blood results to start showing some improvement. At one point, my platelets were at 41,000. I think after they reached that low, they started making an upward climb.  I do not recall numbers associated with my liver enzymes, only that they were high and making their way back down.

Looking back, I am so thankful for my doctor’s desire to hear John Robert's heartbeat more clearly at the hospital. Otherwise, there is a chance that given more time, this syndrome could have taken my life - could have taken John Robert's life. It is so important to be informed on HELLP syndrome and preeclampsia. I may have been able to piece together my symptoms, as swelling in my ankles, visual disturbances, abdominal pain, and fluid in the lungs are all symptoms of HELLP. While I had some symptoms/complications associated with HELLP, the onset of high blood pressure did not occur until the very end, making it difficult to diagnose.

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