On Friday, Jan 5 (34 weeks pg), I had a special ultrasound scheduled with the perinatologist due to my high blood pressure. I had spent the week on strict bedrest, and I had been feeling so awful that week?swollen beyond belief, tired, and generally yucky. The swelling was everywhere. My feet, ankles, and legs were swollen up to mid-thigh. I could barely walk. My face was so swollen that I looked like a stranger in the mirror. My eyes were slits, and it was hard to see because of it.
My husband and I went to the ultrasound appointment, and the baby was fine. However, the doctor didn?t like my BP or the swelling, and he insisted that I go to Labor and Delivery to be evaluated for pre-eclampsia. In L & D, it seemed to take forever to get the blood test results back (I wasn?t allowed to leave without the results). Our first childbirth class was that evening, so we wanted to get going.
Well, the results finally did come back, and it was not good. I had severe pre-eclampsia with HELLP Syndrome. My kidneys were showing signs of beginning to fail, and other things were wrong as well. I was going die if the baby wasn?t delivered soon.
I was terrified. My mother nearly died of pre-eclampsia when giving birth to me, and I have always been afraid that I would get it, too. Not only was I now facing one of my worst fears, but I was sicker with it than my mother was.
Wil was scared as well. The knowledge that you might soon lose your wife and child is horrific. Somehow, he managed to put his feelings aside throughout the entire ordeal to take care of me. He is stronger than he knows, and I couldn?t have a better husband.
Labor and Delivery
The first medical procedure was an evaluation to see if conditions were favorable for induction of labor. It was determined that if it was favorable, I would be given 12 hours on pitocin to show signs of progress. However, I first had to be given an IV drip of a drug called Magnesium Sulfate. The ?Mag? was supposed to prevent me from having a seizure from the pre-eclampsia. Additionally, I had to have a catheter so that the output of my kidneys could be monitored precisely. Because my platelet count was low, I also had to get an epidural right away. If I waited, I would not be able to get one due to the risk of bleeding. None of this was pleasant. At the start, the Mag makes you feel like a fire is running rampant through your veins. Later, it makes you feel dizzy and fuzzy. Supposedly, it makes you nauseous, but that is the one thing it did not do to me.
When the 12 hours of pitocin were up, I hadn?t made any progress. Meanwhile, my condition was getting worse. My kidneys were only able to process 12 mL of fluid per hour. Other things were getting worse, too, but I was too out of it to remember the details. At this point, I was given a choice?an immediate c-section or alternative induction methods. If I chose to continue with the induction, I was risking greater damage to my body along with a riskier c-section in the event the induction failed. I chose to have the c-section immediately. My intuition was telling me that induction wasn?t going to work, and I saw no point in delaying the inevitable.
Once the decision was made things proceeded quickly. I was moved to the operation room, and I was ?prepared? for surgery. This mainly involved getting some numbing stuff in the epidural, a belly wash, and a shave. At that point, Wil came into the room wearing scrubs. He sat down next to me and held my hand. My last thought was how cute he looked in his scrubs. My next memory was of being wheeled back into hospital room. I gave birth, but I have no memory of it. I don?t even remember seeing or hearing my baby. (According to Wil, it is probably for the best that I don?t recall the surgery. It was apparently traumatic.) Katherine Rose was born at 11:04 am on the sixth of January, 2007.
After the c-section, I had to stay on the Mag for another 24 hours. During this time, my condition improved and stabilized. My daughter was brought to see me for two very brief visits (less than 5 minutes) during this time. She is so tiny, but so beautiful.
Recovery and Relapse
Finally, around mid-day on Sunday, I was taken off of the Mag. I was then moved to a post-partum room in the adjacent wing of the hospital. After resting for a bit, the nurse came in to remove the catheter and make me get out of bed. Getting out of bed for the first time was really hard, but it did get better as time passed. After resting for a bit, I was able to get up on my own, and I slowly walked down to the nursery to see my daughter. The rest of the day was spent resting and making trips to the nursery.
The next morning, I had some funny spots in my vision. As the day progressed, I developed a large blind spot in my right eye. I told my nurse about it, so some blood was taken for tests?but no real action at this point. A lady came in wanting the paper work for Katie?s birth certificate filled out, but I could not read the form to fill it out because of the problem with my vision. I did manage to take a shower that day. It felt wonderful.
When I was in the nursery for Katie?s evening feeding, I mentioned my vision problem the nurse in charge of the nursery. She thought it was pretty serious, and she immediately went to talk to the nurse. A few minutes later, some of the medical staff came in and rushed me back to bed. My blood pressure was too high, and there was a strong possibility that I would have a seizure. A doctor from the Intensive Care Unit was brought in to look at my eye and evaluate me. He found that there was some blood visible in my eye. Then, the OB and intensivist doctor left the room to talk about me.
When the OB returned, she told my husband to pack up out belongings?I was going to be moved back to the labor and delivery room because along with blood pressure and eye problem, the blood tests showed a worsening of my condition (particularly my platelets and liver enzymes). I was put in a wheelchair, and the OB personally took me to the radiology department for a CAT scan of my head. Fortunately, my head was OK, and I hadn?t had a stroke.
After the CAT scan, I was brought to the ?recovery room? in labor and delivery. I say ?recovery room? because it was really resembled a storage closet that just happened to have curtains and a bed in it. Then, the OB informed me that I needed to be put back on the Magnesium Sulfate for at least 24 hours. I was not pleased with this news or the room I would have to be in (apparently there were more women in labor than rooms?otherwise I would have been put in normal LDR room). I questioned the doctor about any other treatment options. Unfortunately, there were not any other real choices?it was accept the treatment or possibly have a seizure, stroke (or die).
So, the nurse came in and hooked me back up?IV, catheter, and blood pressure cuff. At the least the nurse was the same one I had the first night?it was good to have a nice, familiar nurse. She also obtained a cot for Wil, so he was able to stay with me. The next day and a half was the worst part of my hospital stay.
I was not allowed to eat any real food, only liquids and Jell-O. The nurse had to record the volume of liquid that went in and out of me. So, I was hungry the entire time. The room was dismal (no window), and the drugs made me feel horrible. The worst part was that I could not see my baby for the entire time I was trapped in that room. I could not go to the nursery, and there was not enough staff to bring her to me. Meanwhile, I could hear the other women?s babies crying. Needless to say, I cried, too.
I did get out of bed, briefly, Tuesday morning. I was taken to an ophthalmologist?s office to have my eye examined. Finally, I had good news. The high blood pressure had caused a blood vessel to swell in eye. It would heal on its own when my BP was under control. I was relieved. When I got back to my room, there was a technician with an ultrasound machine waiting on me. An echocardiogram had been ordered. Since the OB didn?t want me out of bed, the machine was brought to me. My heart was more or less OK.
After the morning of tests, I had to survive the remaining time in bed. When the 24 hours were up, the doctor came in to talk to me. She was going to continue to keep me on the Mag overnight. Since it was easier to sleep through the night than go through the hook up process, I was OK with her decision. It was better to have a little extra treatment and be truly well than to have another relapse. She did give me sleeping medicine and permission to eat real food.
The Real Recovery
Late the next morning (Wednesday), a different doctor visited. He informed that the Mag was going to be turned off, I would be moved to a postpartum room, and I would likely go home the next day. It was a bit of a wait to get moved, but it did happen. As soon as I arrived in my new room, I went to see Katie. I had to be taken in a wheelchair because the Mag still in my system made me too weak and dizzy to walk that far. I spent the remainder of the day resting and going to the nursery.
On Thursday morning, I was released from the hospital. I was happy to be free of the hospital, but terribly sad because Katie had to stay. At the time, we didn?t know how long her stay would be. It might be a few more days, or it could be a few weeks. The nurse let me hold Katie to say goodbye even though it wasn?t her feeding time. (Yes, I could only take her out for her feedings.)
The drive home was surreal. I hadn?t been outside in a week, I wasn?t pregnant anymore, and I wasn?t coming home with a baby. The following days were strange as well. Emotionally, I was numb. My MIL was visiting us. My parents and my sister came flew from out-of-state to see me. It nice to see all of them, but I was so tired. My blood pressure was still a bit unstable, too. I had to have a daily check in with the doctor to adjust my medication for the first week home. I weighed myself, and I had lost 40 lbs during my hospital stay.
On my fourth day home, the nursery called. They wanted us to bring the carseat in that day because Katie was going to be released the next day. This was much earlier than we had anticipated, and we were elated. I cried, of course?the baby blues are annoying?I had cried about everything for the last week.
Katie came home on January 16, 2007. ?and life is OK again.
Update: Katie is now 8 months olds, and has caught up in size and everything else.. I'm mostly fine, but still on meds for BP. Hopefully, the meds will go away once the extra lbs are gone. I still have no memory of her birth, but her 1st birthday is going to be something special.