My HELLP Story
Posted On Monday, September 09, 2013 by Shannon
I'm not even sure where to begin. My family and I are survivors of HELLP Syndrome. Up until a month before my due date, I had what I thought was a relatively normal pregnancy. I felt incredibly nauseous the first trimester, like a million bucks the second trimester and fat, tired and swollen for much of the third trimester. Our little girl was full term and I didn't have many of the symptoms a lot of women have prior to being induced.
On April 22 (exactly one month before my due date), I was put on bed rest. I had mentioned to the Dr in a few previous visits that my ankles were very swollen. They would examine them and tell me that's a normal part of pregnancy, which I understood and figured I should stop being paranoid about it. At my April 22nd visit, my blood pressure had begun to rise. They scheduled an ultrasound for me the following day. The ultrasound showed that the baby was still thriving and was estimated to be about 7lbs. I was sent home on bed rest and told to do a 24 hour urine test. The results of that test came back fine, so I was just told to take it easy and monitor my bp from home.
On Thursday, May 2 my husband and I went to see my Dr. because I took my blood pressure and it was really high. As soon as we were there they took my blood pressure again and it was still high - but not as bad as it had been at home. I had only seen a nurse at this point and she just told me they were going to draw more blood and would call me with the results. I was waiting to get my blood drawn in the office when she came back and asked if our bags were packed because the Dr. was sending us over to labor and delivery at the hospital to have more tests. We were actually prepared for that - our bags were in the car. The day before we hit the 37 week mark and I felt confident that this baby was not going to wait. Everyone told me that you never have your first baby early - but I just had this weird feeling that I would.
We headed over to the hospital to be checked into the triage unit and monitored. The baby's heartbeat was good and my blood pressure slowly started to go down. I didn't have any protein in my urine and after several hours we were sent home. My Dr. mentioned that "the way my levels were trending were cause for concern, but for now I just needed to take it easy". I should have asked more questions. Our next appointment was on Monday, May 6th.
On Sunday morning, May 5th I woke up around 4 am and felt really sick. Sick in the nauseous, just kinda blah and not right way. I also had some pain around the upper right side of my stomach. (I was previously told to be aware of such pain. It didn't really hurt - it was more of just a tight feeling, and I thought I was just being paranoid.) I got up and went downstairs to try and watch some TV and put myself back to sleep. Around 4:30 am I decided that maybe I wasn't just being paranoid and I should wake my husband up. We agreed that I should call the on-call Dr.
The on-call Dr. told us to go to the hospital to get checked out (just like I knew he would - but I still cried about it - happy cry? scared cry? sad cry? I don't know - just a cry). We finished packing our hospital bags and took off. We checked in to labor and delivery again and went to the triage unit. My blood pressure was high but not super high. Baby's heartbeat was still good. So we laid there. I felt like I was going to get sick, and I did. Eventually, the nurse came back and told us the Dr. wanted us to be admitted and that they were going to induce me. YAY! I was so happy at that point. Let's get this show on the road - I'm tired of being on bed rest (in hindsight, I realize I was not on bedrest long and that many woman would have been overjoyed to only have to stay in bed for a month, I apologize for my enthusiasm that day). We made the calls to our parents to let them know that it was go time.
It took what felt like forever to be transferred to actual labor and delivery. Eventually, we got there and waited for the Dr. He came in and checked me - I was already 3cm's dilated before anything was done. Another YAY! He told me that they were going to start petocin and break my water. He also predicted that we would have a baby before 10:00pm. YAY! Everything was going GREAT! He told us it could take a while and he was going to run out and do some errands - he would be back. Well - he was right - we would have a baby before 10:00pm.
I was pricked SO many times. The first nurse that tried to put my IV in left me with a bruise that is lasted an entire month after birth. I basically had needles in every part of both of my arms. My contractions were about 2 mins apart and I was feeling good about it for a while. Then things started to go downhill FAST. I was informed that I had developed HELLP Syndrome and was given a brief explanation that all I took away from it was that we needed to have the baby soon. It wasn't until we got home and I Googled all of it that I realized how serious things were.
The magnesium was started shortly after. Once that was all in my system they decided to up the dose of pitocin to really get things moving along. Doing that really made the contractions much stronger. Still about 2 mins apart, maybe a little less. The anesthesiologist came in to talk about the epidural. The issue was that my platelet count was already too low to get an epidural so they were going to have to give me a platelet transfusion before they could do the epidural. I'm sure they give the same "risk" speech to everyone - but basically in my case they were only going to be able to try one time and if they missed - I was going to have to go without.
Around the same time the Dr. came back in to check me again. My condition was still deteriorating and he said we needed to get the baby out. If I was around 6cm he would let me continue to labor, but couldn't promise I wouldn't end up with a c-section. He checked and - I WAS 6 cm. At that point - it was our decision. We could either continue on, or we could opt for a c-section under general anesthesia (because I couldn't get the spinal for the same reason as the epidural issue). I remember my husband and the Dr. talking about what he would recommend that would be the safest for both me and the baby and the Dr. said he would do the c-section. Done. That's what we would do.
After that - everything went REALLY quickly. Immediately they started prepping my bed to move me to the operating room. Since I was going under general anesthesia my husand wasn't allowed to come with me. He kissed me goodbye as I was being wheeled away.
Once in the operating room it was FREEZING. I was still having contractions and I found it was easiest for me to just close my eyes. I was scared enough, but I thought looking around would just make it worse so I tried to keep them shut. They strapped my arms down once I moved to the operating table. No one was really talking to me and if I had to guess I would say there were about 15 people in the room. It probably wasn't long until they knocked me out - but it sure felt like a long time.
Once I was out they got the baby out in 1 minute. Emma Grace was born on May 5 at 5:16pm. Weighing in at a healthy 6 lbs, 13 oz. and 19.5 inches. I'm told they went and got my husband and gave her to him pretty quickly. When I woke up (not sure how long after) - he was sitting beside me holding Emma. I was confused from the drugs still - I think I even said "oh yeah - I forgot there is a baby". SHE WAS FINALLY HERE.
The nurse took the baby and gave her to me (she stood right there - I was too weak). She was beautiful. I, of course cried. She was perfect from the moment she was born. She scored 9 on her apgar tests and was super strong from the beginning. The hospital pediatrician even commented on how strong she was.
The days that followed were incredibly tough and emotional for me, as they are for any new mother. We stayed in the hospital under close observation for another 4 days. I was able to manage the pain pretty well but was unbelievably weak and pale. Prior to getting pregnant, I had never had any medical issues. My family has an excellent health record (also no pre-eclampsia or HELLP) and I was in excellent shape. I took prenatals even before we started trying and didn't even have any caffeine until late in the third trimester. I gained 35lbs which isn't even over the recommended amount, but left the hospital 22lbs lighter. No one saw this coming, but I had the best husband and family members by my side the entire time to help and I couldn't be more thankful for all of them.
Although I'm sad that I can't remember many things from that day, and neither my husband or I were able to hear her first cries, I know how blessed we are. My heart aches for all the families that have not been so fortunate. I honestly feel silly even calling myself a HELLP survivor. So many of you are true survivors and I pray that each of you will find peace with whatever your experience may have been.
I have ready so many of your stories and feel incredibly blessed. I try to not to dwell on the "what if's", but I can't help but think of those that were lost. Emma is our whole world and I can't imagine our life without her. Thank you for letting me share my story and for sharing your stories with me. I hope to post again in a few years, with a success story of a HELLP and Preeclampsia free second pregnancy.
After surviving a very traumatic first pregnancy with a nightmare delivery (30 hours of magnesium-induced hell, ending in an emergency c-section) and even more debilitating recovery, one would think I was DONE having children. Let's be ...