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Sunday, January 6, 2013

HELLP can be a Dangerous Thing

Ten years ago today The Farmer and I welcomed our first born child into our lives 4 weeks and 5 days earlier than his due date and were also introduced to the illness known as HELLP syndrome.  You see I had a perfectly healthy pregnancy until New Year’s Day.  I had felt wonderful and worked on the farm everyday.  I hadn’t even gained an excessive amount of weight which made my doctor very happy.

New Year’s Day I went to eat Black Eyed Peas with my parents and grandparents and just didn’t feel right, in fact my toes were tingling at one point.  Even my grandpa commented that I didn’t look good to my mom.  I checked my blood pressure with my mom’s home monitor and it was 165/85.  My mom made me sit in a chair for 20 minutes and it didn’t get any lower.  She sent me home with The Farmer if I promised to call the doctor if it didn’t go down.

2 hours later I am sitting in the hospital hooked to a blood pressure monitor  that also says my blood pressure in 165/85.  Honestly at this point in time I was oblivious to the fact that pregnancy can be life threatening to a mother especially at 34 weeks pregnant (much like the family on the Facebook page Bringing Home the Browns whose hope is to have a new mother wake up).    My doctor told me I had preeclampsia (10% of women get this) and my blood work was OK considering.  I did have a lot of protein in my urine (that is when I realized why they have you pee in a cup at the doctor every time you visit.)  She wanted to keep me overnight and I had to collect my urine for 24 hours to see exactly how much protein was leaving my body.

Over the course of the next 5 days, I stayed in the hospital for several reasons:
1.       We lived 45 minutes from the hospital and she wanted to monitor my blood pressure hourly.
2.       She wanted to monitor the baby twice a day.
3.       It was snowing A LOT and she didn’t really think we needed to travel through all that.
4.       And most importantly she herself was a farm girl and knew if she sent me home I wouldn’t stay on bed rest and she was probably correct.
5.       They gave 3 steroid injections to help develop the baby’s lungs since he was DEFINITELY coming early.  We all prayed I could make it to 35 weeks and could deliver at the local hospital.

My nurses were all sure I would be transferred to another hospital.  They told me who was volunteering to be on the transfer team to go with me.  They said I was one of the few patients that wasn’t mad at them or the doctor for being stuck in the hospital.  Getting mad wasn’t going to make my blood pressure so down and besides there was considerable snow on the ground and who wants to do chores in the snow.  J  My doctor also told me that I had progressed to HELLP syndrome which .7% of pregnant women get.

On the morning of January 6, I knew something was had to change because of the way I felt and the fact that when the nurses changed shifts ALL of them came in to say Hello or Good bye and see if I needed anything.  My doctor was sure that I would induce easily as I was already starting to dialate.  The lab work showed that my liver and kidney’s were trying to shut down.  I found out later that blood pressure of 205/105 can cause you to have stroke as well and I was there. 

After 8+ hours of labor and blood work being done what seemed hourly, my lab work looked considerably worse.  My wonderful doctor had just delivered a baby by caesarean and asked the surgery team to stay for a little while.  She was concerned about the lab work and asked if we wanted to go ahead and have a baby even though some of her counterparts in Wichita and Kansas City would let me go another 8-12 hours.  I looked at her and my husband and said I wasn’t sure if I would make it another 8 hours.  She agreed and took my husband to sign the paperwork and the anesthesiologist walked in.  I honestly don’t remember for about 2 days from that point.

Mr. D came out screaming and I was told there was a party in the delivery room.  Apparently, preemie boys do not come out screaming.  One of my friends happened to be my nurse the next day.  She told me later that they had to move ICU staff to my nurse’s station because I wasn’t stable enough to move to ICU-I didn’t know you could be that sick.

Most of the time a mother’s blood pressure comes down as soon as the baby is delivered.  It took my body over a week to recover and for my blood pressure to stabilize at a normal level.  In total, I spent 10 days in the hospital and my doctor would have kept me longer if insurance would have let her.  Mr. D had jaundice and that was most likely do to the toxins from my body going to him when my liver was trying to shut down.

I felt I needed to share this with you.  I know several of my friends have suffered from HELLP, but they usually had one of the risk factors:
1.       First time mother
2.       Excessive weight gain
3.       Carrying multiples
4.       Teenage mother
5.       Mother over 40
6.       African/American
I only had one of the risk factors which totally confused my doctor as to why I would get so sick so quickly.
I know a lot of friends that have been put on bed rest and were sent home.  They cleaned the house, the flower beds, cooked 15 meals, etc.  If a doctor puts you on bed rest, LISTEN…they are ordering it because it is necessary.

 I have friends that were in a coma for 2 weeks because of HELLP and one that spent time on dialysis while her parents and husband tended to her twins until her kidney function returned.

-A Kansas Farm Mom