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Post On Friday, June 07, 2013 By Lisa
I was very excited to learn I was pregnant with my daughter in Jan. 2011. I was then 40 years old. I have always been very healthy, so I had no concerns about my own well-being; my concerns were focused solely on my baby's health because I had conceived older than I had initially anticipated. Most of my pregnancy was wonderful. The first health issue came at about the 6 month point. I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, but I was able to keep this under control throughout the remainder of the pregnancy with diet and did not have to take any medication. Later that month and into my 7th month, I began to swell in my legs. Because we were having such a hot summer, I contributed it to the heat. My doctor was made aware of the swelling and started me on weekly stress tests, but the concerns were low because my blood pressure was fine and the stress tests showed everything to be normal. Besides the swelling in my legs, I did not have any other symptoms of preeclampsia. I continued to work my full time job as usual. During the last month of my pregnancy, I was wearing compression hosiery in an effort to keep the swelling down in my legs, ankles and feet, but it wasn't very effective. Approximately two weeks before the baby was due, I went in for my weekly doctor's appointment. My doctor was not in that day so I was seen by the attending doctor instead. The checkup was normal, but I remember I had jeans on and it was hiding my legs and my ankles. She noticed that there were notes in my file about the swelling, so she asked me about it. I pulled up my jeans and she was shocked when she saw how swelled my legs were. I guess I was getting so used to the swelling that it didn't seem unusual to me, but the attending doctor was very concerned. She said "you have preeclampsia" and I remember her asking what I needed to do to have it corrected. She said that nothing could be done; the only solution was to deliver the baby. I remember being so surprised by that answer - it never occurred to me that my baby could be delivered 2 weeks early! My doctor called me later that day and urged me to come to the hospital the next morning to be induced, but I was unprepared and scared, and I really hesitated with the idea of being induced because I was delivering naturally (no meds) and I had been told induction made the labor more intense. I did not understand the seriousness of the situation and decided to wait a day. When I went to the hospital to be induced, everything started out o.k. My blood pressure was fine, but I was swelling quite a bit and I was told later that I was complaining of a headache. During delivery, I had a seizure and was given magnesium sulfate which should have stopped it, but shortly after I had a second severe seizure which resulted in a stroke. The doctors completed the delivery with forceps. I have almost no memory of the delivery, and I spent a week in the ICU (I believe 9 days total in the hospital). The doctors (I was told) did not know I had a stroke until they realized I was unable to see out of my left eye. People would come in to visit me, and if they were on my left I could not see them. My husband and I did not find out our baby's gender ahead of time- I wanted it to be a surprise and looked forward to the doctor saying "it's a boy!" or "It's a girl!". One of my first memories of the ICU was me asking the nurse if I had a boy or a girl- I didn't know. Our baby was born perfectly healthy, and I thank God for that. But it's been a difficult time caring for a newborn while at the same time recovering from a stroke. I've lost permanent vision in my left eye and when I came home I had significant cognitive problems such as being unable to read & forgetting how to use the shower, turn on the stove, getting dressed, etc. I was unable to drive and felt isolated as I was home with the baby and could not go out unless I could get a ride (my city does not have good public transportation). I sometimes wonder if my age or the diabetes may have been contributing factors to the preeclampsia, and I really wish I had been more vocal when I had a headache during the beginning of my labor. I just did not understand what preeclampsia was or the seriousness of the condition. In a way, I had to grieve a little that the birth of my daughter did not go as planned and I missed out a lot on her early baby days- I was in a sort of fog and I could not handle taking care of her the way a new mom should; I had to rely heavily on my husband and family. I am so grateful though that our daughter is healthy, and I am healing very well and have recently been given the o.k. to drive again. I urge anyone that may suspect they have preeclampsia to not take it lightly!! Talk to your health care provider and get as informed as possible. Be your own advocate if necessary- even if it seems mild (such as in my case), it can turn into a very dangerous condition.
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