Six Years After Preeclampsia

Post On Thursday, October 05, 2017 By Gabrielle

Six Years After Preeclampsia

"I feel like I am a 27-year-old walking time bomb for cardiovascular disaster." ~Gabrielle Benitez

I was 20 years old when I discovered I was pregnant with my son. While most of the thoughts running through my mind centered around things like "How can I possibly succeed at being a mother?" I never once considered the idea that I could get seriously ill. 

Just before my seventh month of pregnancy, I waddled my way into the hospital where I was to give birth. Not due to any complications, but because I had to attend a birthing class. With my then boyfriend (now husband) in tow, we navigated the cold halls of the hospital.

While desperately searching for some sign of where to go, I passed a kind old woman, wearing nurses’ scrubs. She smiled at me warmly, and I did my best to acknowledge her kind gesture. Just then she stopped short and grabbed my arm. 

"Are you feeling okay my dear?" she asked full of concern. Taken back by her forward question I simply replied, "Yeah I'm fine, we're just late to the birthing class." 

"I'm sorry, you will have to come with me." she said sternly. I looked at my boyfriend, with skepticism all over my face and turned to protest to the nurse. I was interrupted with, "I'm sorry my dear, but I, in good conscience, cannot let you walk away from me right now. At least let me take you to triage first."

While a slight unease beginning to creep through my body, I decided it would be best to follow her. Maybe she would at least help me get to my birthing class on time.

In triage, I was taken in quickly. Nurses fussed about me taking vitals and talking in hushed voices. I was promptly told to lay down. Looking over at the blood pressure monitor near my head I saw the numbers 191/126. But I didn't know what that meant.

In the days that would follow, I would be admitted to that hospital. I would be informed that I had a condition called Preeclampsia. It would be unlikely that I left the hospital between then and my due date, and my son would be delivered early. It was only January, and the idea of staying in the hospital bed until the end of March made me sick.

A week later, my medical team thought I would do okay on complete bedrest at home. The only standing I would be allowed to do was to go to the bathroom, and occasionally, a very quick shower if absolutely necessary. I was to take my blood pressure at home all throughout the day, and constantly monitor my vital signs. I had to visit the doctor three times a week to track blood pressure changes, and the health of my baby.

With those instructions in mind, I went home and laid in my bed. My boyfriend returned to work, picking up extra hours to compensate for me being unable to work.

I laid in bed alone each day, from before the sun rose, to its setting. I watched countless reruns of Friends, and memorized all the items on The Price is Right. I checked my blood pressure all day, seemingly just waiting for it to get a level of emergency concern.

On the last day of February, my amniotic fluid began to leak. At this point, there was no sense in trying to prolong my delivery anymore, and with that, I was quickly admitted into Labor & Delivery. I was given a magnesium drip to prevent the seizures that might come with Preeclampsia.

Maybe it is all in my head, but that magnesium drip changed my life. The medicine made my thoughts numb, and I can hardly remember any of the details of my son’s birth.

The only brief recollection I have, is getting my epidural, and starring at a picture of Winnie the Pooh on the wall. It was drawn by my little sister. As soon as the anesthesiologist left, that picture began to swim in my vision, and next thing I knew, I was laid flat on the bed, with nurses and doctors all around me.

Medications were being pushed into my IV and there was lots of yelling. I remember my mom, frantically speaking to me behind the nurses, trying to grab my hand saying, “it will be okay, don’t worry, don’t worry, don’t worry!” My boyfriend stood in the corner of the room, white as a sheet.

I learned that I had a reaction to that epidural, where moments earlier my blood pressure, evaluated as it had been for months, quickly tanked to levels that made me pass out.

jojo hospitalI remember nothing after that until my son was born. I briefly recall holding him for a few moments and hoping I could eat soon.

I had to stay in the hospital one week after his birth. I remember very little of that time. It seemed like everything after the magnesium I was given was dulled, gray, and slow moving.

Six years later, I have been in therapy for a year. I went to therapy last year to try to get a hold of my anxiety. While I was always anxious growing up, the past year revealed a drastic increase in my symptoms, to the point that I felt like I was losing my mind.

It has taken my therapist and I one year to identify that my symptoms of anxiety were all related to health. To this day, I check my heart rate all day long, and I’m acutely aware of any changes in my body. I have nightmares of being in hospitals, and getting injected with medications that begin to kill me.

Last November, I had to go to the Emergency Room. I was enduring panic unlike any I had ever experienced. I had begun losing feeling in my arms, legs, and face. My heart rate could not come down to safe levels for hours. I was losing touch with reality.

Since that episode of pure terror, my life has been drastically different. My anxiety is in my face, and now with therapy, I see it is unresolved feelings of fear associated with my experience of Preeclampsia.

My thoughts have never come back as clear as they were before my illness. My heart rate and blood pressure never returned to normal levels, even after my delivery. I feel like I am a 27-year-old walking time bomb for cardiovascular disaster.

I hope that since my therapist and I have identified that my experience with Preeclampsia is at the core of anxiety, I can begin to live life normally again one day.

To me, preeclampsia has been much more than elevated bloodFamily Picture pressure during pregnancy. It has given me a life altering way of thinking. It’s stripped my idea of safety.

I don’t know what I would have done without that angel of a nurse in the hallway at the hospital. If not for her pure instinct, my preeclampsia would have likely been discovered in a more terrifying way.

My experience with preeclampsia did not end after delivery. It is still affecting me six years later. I know I cannot be the only one who suffers mentally from the effects of this disease. My hope with sharing my story, is that other women can come forward with me and make mental healthcare for those affected by preeclampsia a priority.

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