What the Hellp?

Post On Thursday, December 27, 2018 By Stefanie Kuehn

What the Hellp?

After trying to conceive for several years we saught help from Shady Grove fertility and after our third IUI attempt we got pregnant. Below is my story ... 

It’s 5am on Saturday Sept 22nd. I’m 35 weeks pregnant and something felt off that morning. I called my doctor and she suggested that I come to the hospital for monitoring. My husband and I collect our belongings, get in the car and before we made it out of the driveway I got a pounding headache; the worst I’ve ever felt. 10 agonizing minutes later we arrive at the hospital. I explain my symptoms (headache, nausea, light spotting) and they inform me that my BP is 220/110....early onset preeclampsia. At 6:45am I’m wheeled into the OR preparing for an emergency C-section. And Just a few short minutes later Caroline Rae, weighing 3lbs 15 oz. was born. She’s whisked away for monitoring and I’m off to the recovery room. 

Recovery was going well but Within a few short hours things took a turn for the worse. My platelet levels dropped significantly, I was hemorrhaging, and I had high amounts of protein in my urine.

Fast forward to 9pm, my doctor informs me that my kidneys and liver are failing fast and that the hospital is unable to provide me with the resources to help me get better. She said, “You’re going to be transported to University of Maryland Shock Trauma.” I said “by ambulance”, she looked at me and said “no, by helicopter.” Things were about to get real! 

20 minutes later I arrive at shock trauma, nurses and doctors were waiting for me by the entrance. Hematology docs, kidney docs, OB/GYN docs. I’m wheeled into my room at ICU where I would spend the next 3-5 days. Baby Caroline remained at Upper Chesapeake Hospital where I delivered and spent a few days in the nursery. One can only imagine how it feels to be separated from your new baby and transported to another hospital not knowing if or when you will return home. 

Over the next few days I received continuous dialysis, plasmapheresis treatments, and round the clock monitoring. Doctor’s determined that I had a severe case of HELLP syndrome. 

As the days passed, my numbers started to improve, first my liver enzymes recovered but my Kidney levels were stalling. This was unusual for someone my age (34yrs old) who is in great health, no underlying health conditions, and who remained active throughout the entire pregnancy. 

I was active in sports growing up, played lacrosse since I was 5, and I attended boot camp 3-4 times / week. I felt like I was in the best shape of my life. Had I not been in such great physical shape the doctor’s said that this could have had a different outcome. I was faced with one of the most physically and mentally challenging experiences of my life. 

After 6 nights and 7 days in the hospital I was finally released. Caroline was released the day before I got home. I was so excited and nervous to meet her for the first time. It was a surreal feeling. 

Today, 3 months later, we are both doing great and adjusting to our new normal. I often reflect back on that time in my life and it’s crazy to believe that it happened. I’ve had time to digest the situation and do some research on HELLP and read about what other women have endured and I’m lucky to be sitting here writing about my story. 

I’m so grateful for organizations like the Preeclampsia Foundation and Hope that other women find strength and courage through my story and others. 

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