Paige and Me

Post On Tuesday, April 14, 2015 By Amy

Paige and Me

I was 26 years old and 125 pounds when I became pregnant in 1996. I had very little morning sickness and for the most part, my pregnancy seemed to be progressing normally. An ultrasound revealed that the baby was a girl. My doctor was a young OBGYN who had a pleasant manner. At a routine visit to him in early February of 1997, he noted that my weight had escalated considerably from my last visit. I was at about 24 weeks gestation. He told me to contact his office immediately should I notice or feel anything unusual.

On Thursday, February 13, after dropping my husband off at work, I decided to go shopping. I was aggravated that nothing fit comfortably or even remotely looked good. While at the store, I felt my arms tingle and grow slightly numb. To my shock, I realized my bra was constricting blood flow to my arms. I went to the ladies room, took it off and put it into my purse. I considered this an unusual event and I drove to my doctor's office for a check up.

In an exam room, the nurse who took my blood pressure had a worried look on her face. She left and shortly thereafter my doctor came in. He told me to go directly to the hospital and gave me a piece of paper for admittance. He said he would see me there that evening. He never actually told me what was wrong with me, only that my blood pressure was very high. While In the elevator, I looked down at the piece of paper he gave me, and next to the word diagnosis was “preeclampsia”. Until that moment preeclampsia was a strange complication I knew very little about, something that could never happen to me.

When I arrived at the hospital I was admitted into the maternity ward. I remember that I started to cry and a nurse scolded me and told me tears wouldn't help my situation. After my doctor arrived, I was given blood pressure medication and magnesium intravenously. And a catheter was inserted. I was told the magnesium would prevent my condition from advancing to eclampsia, which is when the body begins to seize. Almost immediately the magnesium made me nauseous and I began to vomit uncontrollably, this lasted through the night and into the next day. Within 24 hours, on the 14th, it was decided that I would be transferred to a hospital in Indianapolis, an hour's drive north, which was better equipped at dealing with high risk pregnancies.

Before I was loaded into the ambulance, my doctor ordered more magnesium. Again, I began intense vomiting, which had become only dry heaves. The magnesium also made me feel extremely warm. And although it was freezing cold outside, I begged the nurse who rode with me to the open the windows. Despite shivering herself, she did crack one slightly. During the duration of the ride, she held a tray next to me while I vomited bile.

Upon admittance to the medical center, a blood panel was taken. The amount of magnesium in my blood was so high, I was removed me from it entirely until the levels in my system stabilized. Gradually my nausea subsided and I began to feel considerably better. My new doctor was an specialist in his field, and he had a team of people who followed him around. The moment he saw me he said I would deliver within two weeks. I didn't believe him, and I clung to a strange notion that God was going to heal me and I would leave the hospital and have a normal pregnancy.

I had many visitors, mostly in-laws. On the 13th , someone gave me candle sticks in a fancy white box for Valentine’s Day. It was a lovely gesture, but utterly absurd considering my circumstances. People brought me crochet needles, yarn, books, magazines, flowers and video cassette tapes. The items became clutter and were shifted by my nurses into cabinets.

My sinuses we very constantly stuffy and I had many wires and IVs attached to me for various reasons. I was told to lay on my right side as often as possible to reduce the stress on my heart. Within a couple of days I began to feel an intense muscle pain in my shoulders. Hour after hour, the pain worsened, and my nurses became aggravated hearing about it. It prevented me from sleeping, and at 3 am one morning, I got out of bed, dragging my IVs with me, and rummaged through in my bags looking for a muscle cream I was convinced I had packed. The night shift nurse came in and was visible annoyed. She had had enough of me and paged my doctor. He told her to give me morphine and within minutes of his order, she was shooting it into my IV. It was then I finally felt relief and fell asleep.

I awoke late the next morning during my doctor's rounds. A resident approached me directly and asked about the muscle pain. I told him it was totally gone. He seemed pleased and informed me that he had researched the side effects of my blood pressure medication and discovered that some patients developed an allergic reaction to it. And that reaction was intense muscle pain. Upon his discovery, a different medication had been prescribed.

A day or so later, I began to notice shortness of breath. An x-ray of my chest was ordered and it revealed that water was seeping into my lungs. A steroid was added through another IV, and my breathing returned to normal. One of the symptoms of preeclampsia is excessive water retention. My hospitalization was an attempt to stabilize the pregnancy as long as possible, because my baby was under two pounds and had not yet reached 28 weeks gestation.

On February 23, a Sunday, my husband and I convinced the nurses into letting me go outside and I was wheeled into a cold sunny day for about 40 minutes. It was a nice momentary reprieve from the intensity of the situation. Later that evening the nurses noticed my body was no longer responding to any blood pressure medication, despite increased dosages. My doctor decided that the baby would be delivered that night.

It began with an epidural. I was awake through the entire procedure. I remember a team of people surrounding me, trying to keep my blood pressure under control. I heard them talk about how it wasn't working, that they couldn't control it. They ran out of IV points in my arms and had to put them into my legs. They were concerned that my baby and I were going to die on the table. The delivery lasted about 3 hours.

Shortly after she was born, we named the baby Paige Lea. She was placed into an incubator and transported through an underground tunnel to Riley Hospital's neo-natal intensive care unit. The next day, my anesthesiologist visited my room and spoke to me about the delivery. He said that he had never seen anything like that before.

The edema actually worsened after the delivery, also a common occurrence with preeclampsia. When I walked, waves of water moved up and down my legs. A couple of hours after the epidural tube was removed from my back, I noticed my bed was wet. I was confused, but then learned that water was leaving my body via any means possible, including a not-yet-healed epidural point of entry.

I knew very little about babies before Paige, only what I had read in books and magazines. So I had no idea what a 1 pound, 8 ounce infant looked like. As I was wheeled through the tunnel to visit my her for the first time, I kept picturing the Gerber baby, fat and round, and cuddly. Suffice to say, I was not at all prepared for the reality that awaited me.

Paige was in a glass box, incredibly tiny and skinny and had tubes and wires all around her. I stepped out of the wheel chair and stared at her for some time. I wanted to do something, anything, but was powerless. I felt like a tremendous failure. Women all over the world had healthy babies every single day, but I had to make a colossal mess out of mine. There would be no breast feeding, no marsupial mommy-ing. Nothing about any of this was normal.

When I sat back into the wheelchair, I noticed a pool of pink fluid on the floor in front of me. How strange I thought, but then I realized it had come from me (more water!), from my incision, made just slightly looser by the removal of the staples only an hour earlier. I quickly reached for paper towels to cleaned it up, embarrassed that anyone should see it.

I was released on the February 27th, two weeks after he ordeal began. My blood pressure remained high for months and my body was slow to recover. Paige remained in the hospital for 3 months, gradually gaining weight, much of that time spent on a ventilator, a feeding tube and a heart monitor. She had 3 blood transfusions, and the nurses said she had the highest pitch cry they had ever heard.

She was released just under 5 pounds on my 27th birthday. They say when a baby doubles its birth weight, it's a milestones. As such, to go from a pound and a half to 5 pounds was a tremendous feat. Paige's pediatrician at Riley told me to expect delays in her development, and no one was certain what those delays would be or how long they would last. Her doctor was right, she experienced delays for years. It was a difficult road, but I had faith in her and her quality of life. When Paige entered high school, she finally “caught up” to everyone else. And today she's an exceptionally bright, kind and loving young woman. Two months ago, we celebrated her 18th birthday and talked about the future.

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