My HELLP Story

Post On Friday, February 26, 2016 By Amy Jo

My HELLP Story

Scott and I were in our first prenatal class and they gave us the tour of the Labor & Delivery Ward half way through class.  As we walked pass the NICU, Scott leaned over and asked me what that was, as he didn’t hear the instructor. I replied “Oh that’s the NICU for premature babies…you don’t need to worry about that.” And it was like a jolt that rocked my world after that, apparently we were going to know what the NICU was, and know it very well.

I was 32 weeks and started to not feel well. I even began throwing up. Thinking it was from something I ate, maybe food poisoning, I called my doctor to check in. The nurse said that as long as I stay hydrated and feel kicking, all should be well. I proceeded through the next few days not feeling quite right. Then, I started getting the most severe back pain I’ve ever felt. I couldn’t get comfortable at night, I’d wake Scott up to rub my back.  Finally, 4 days later, I had my 33 week check up. I mentioned to Dr. Bliss that I was having a lot of back pain and she said, “Well, you are pregnant. You are going to be uncomfortable.” I knew something was off, but felt ok leaving the doctors office since she checked me out.  I remember seeing my pee look orange-ish, but again, didn’t think much. Two more days went by and the uncomfortability got worse. I couldn’t sleep at all at this point, so I would get up in the middle of the night and go out to the living room and try to do some pre-natal yoga to relax. It was back pain like I’d never felt before. Then came Wednesday and my old friend from High School came into town. She was a Physical Therapist and I told her how I was feeling. She gave me some relief by rubbing my back and tried to show me some posture techniques to try. We ordered some Mexican Food from down the street to eat with them, but I didn’t have an appetite as I couldn’t even sit or stand now without being in pain. I knew I needed to go into the doctor, so I waited for the morning to come and I called. They told me to come on in around 10AM. A doctor was on call and he would see me.  He became my saving grace.

It was Thursday and I went into the Doctor's office. It started as a normal routine, gave a urine sample, waited in a room… they took my blood pressure and then the doctor came in. I remember them taking my blood pressure twice and then leaving the room. Then the doctor came in and did a quick check up and after maybe 5 minutes said, “Well, you’ve just won yourself a trip to labor and delivery.” I was in shock and my eyes began to water.  I didn’t quite understand. He began to explain that my blood pressure was high (later I found out it was like 180/140) and that I needed to go to the hospital so they could run more tests.  It might be nothing, but he wanted to make sure the proper steps were taken. He said he would call ahead so they knew I was coming.

Scott and I walked over to the hospital and sure enough, they were ready for me. A really sweet nurse came and showed me to a room and set me up. The details blur a bit from here, but they kept taking blood test after blood test and I know that the sweet nurse just kept apologizing.  At that point, I wasn’t sure why.  They asked me multiple times if I was seeing double, and I wasn’t, luckily. To help bring my blood pressure down, they began administering Magnesium. I felt pretty relaxed actually, so I was relieved. By early afternoon, our doctor said that they ran blood test after blood test and each came back worse than the next.  It seemed that I had HELLP Syndrome and the only cure was to deliver the baby. I had no idea what HELLP Syndrome was, but I knew they must know what they are talking about as I had not been right for a week now and I was relieved that I was in the right place.

They began giving me petosin to induce labor—they kind that they insert into your canal.  Then as the hours went by, they introduced us to a NICU doctor and an anesthesiologist.  All of a sudden though, they received the test results from the last blood test and my platelet count was less than 20,000—normal people have over 300,000.  Therefore, delivering the baby was not an option until my platelet count got back up or I would bleed to death, as there wouldn’t be anything to clot my blood. 

Next complication, I have A negative blood. A negative blood should really only get A negative platelets and blood.  However, A negative blood is not common. In fact, the only A negative blood they could find was in Pomona, CA, and it would take at least 4-5 hours to get to the hospital.  They needed to hold off of delivering until those platelets arrived. Question was, could they as they had been inducing me all morning.

Hour by hour went by, they re-adjusted the monitoring tabs on the baby through the canal and I lay there dreaming of drinking a nice tall glass of water.  At this point, I couldn’t drink or eat anything. I begged the nurse for an ice chip and somehow achieved it!  Relief for 15 seconds—yahoo!

Knowing we were waiting for the platelets to arrive, Scott ran out to go home and get some things…the computer, our Bose iPod speaker and some overnight essentials. Then he moved the car to a longer parking spot when he returned. All day he had been pumping the meter every two hours thinking we would be released. We couldn’t be having a baby—I was 6 weeks away yet. To kill time, Scott helped me prep via email, my Toys R Us job that was shooting this week. He also was instrumental in keeping me calm. He was my rock throughout this whole thing. How Scott held it together, I still have no idea—shock maybe.

In preparation for the platelets arriving, our doctor and his team corroborated with an anesthesiologist about my condition. They needed to find a strong vein or artery to go in with the platelet transfusion.  They came in and tried in multiple areas (including my ankles, arms, wrists, etc.) to get an IV going, but failed. I have bad veins to begin with, but being dehydrated made them all shrink and constrict even more severely. He said they would go in through my neck if they had to.

Then, what happened next was not anticipated. It was around 10PM and the nice sweet nurse that had been with me all day left for a shift change. They instead sent in a new nurse. All I remember about her is that she seemed really nervous and shaky.  She had been in charge of checking on the fetal monitor. All of a sudden, it had a long, solid beep. She frantically runs out of the room and yells down the hallway, “I need some help in here!” About 17 people come running into my room and flip me over onto my side. I guess the baby began flat lining from the stress and by quickly changing my position, they were able to get her back.  It was scary and a miracle all in one. What gave me the most relief was when our doctor (Scott at this point started to call him Robert Redford as he was a handsome, knowledgeable doctor who held our lives in his hands), told me that he could get the baby out via c-section in 30 seconds, so not to worry.  Within 20-30 minutes, he came back in the room after meeting with his team and they determined that we couldn’t wait any longer, they needed to take me in for an emergency c-section to save both of us now.  By another miracle of God, I looked out of my door and saw the guy carrying the cooler of my platelets run down the hall! They arrived and it was time to let our little baby enter this world.

I said goodbye to Scott and kissed him and they wheeled me off down the hall.  I don’t know if I was more scared at this point or relieved that the crazy being-on-edge feeling was going to end soon.  Next I remember bright lights and them strapping my arms and legs down to a table after they transferred me from the bed to the table in the Operating Room. I felt like a scarecrow strapped down.  I remember seeing the anesthesiologist and the doctor. They had me start counting and that was the last thing I remember until I woke up thrashing and trying to move my arms and legs about. “You have a baby girl,” he said. And I asked “10 fingers and 10 toes” and he kinda looked at me funny with a look of, “Yes, of course” and said “Yeah.”  I was relieved. And she was breathing. In fact, she came out breathing on her own and crying, which is another miracle for 34 weeks along.  

Then the reality of what we went through for the last 13 hours set in.  Our doctor looked me in the eyes and said, “You are very sick. We are going to send to the ICU.” From there, they moved me onto a table with wheels and whisked me off down the hallway and into an elevator. I wasn’t quite sure what was all happening because for the most part, I felt ok. I was relieved entirely that our baby was here and she seemed healthy.  As I entered the elevator, Scott came running in showing me a picture of her on his cell phone—she was beautiful and it was amazing being able to see that!  It was exactly what I needed to give me the motivation to get better quickly. 

When I arrived in the ICU, I received two blood transfusions and had a blood pressure cuff on me permanently. I still had the catheter as well as oxygen.  The blood pressure cuff went off every 2 minutes it seemed.   I still wasn’t entirely sure what I all went through. Then, a wonderful nurse was assigned to me for my first few hours in the ICU. I was blessed. Her name was Cheryl. When she found out that I hadn’t met my baby yet, she took it upon herself to get a digital picture printed from the NICU and brought it down to my room to set next to my bed.  She also went online and printed out what HELLP Syndrome was. It was then that I began to comprehend just how severe my situation really was and how lucky I am.

After about 22 hours in the ICU, the nurses began to prepare for my transfer to the maternity floor. I was relieved to be transferred as it meant that I was one step closer to being able to meet my baby face to face.  The nurses were moving a bit slow for me as my favorite nurse was no longer on shift, so I ended up pulling my oxygen off so they would move me sooner, and it kinda worked. However, by the time I got up to the maternity ward, I had no idea how weak I was. It was the strangest feeling, and painful to try to stand, much less walk. It took a bit to get used to that, but I had just undergone a major surgery and then some, so it was nothing unusual, I just wasn’t used to it.  They actually may have had to wheel me to the NICU the first time as it was too much for me to walk to go see her. I remember even being afraid I would drop her as I was so weak, but I was able to touch her hand and talk to her and I swear I felt her grasp my finger a bit.  It was the most amazing feeling in the world – seeing this little tiny 3 lb 7 oz baby whose head was smaller than the palm of our hand, and she was gripping my finger telling me “Mommy, it will all be ok.” My life was changed forever.  I only wish I had known the warning signs earlier, as even my first doctor had no idea.

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