Saturday, May 12, 2012

Survivor Saturday: Kristy's Story

I had the pleasure of running 14 miles this morning in honor of Kristy and her children. Like me, Kristy is a three-time survivor. I'm so glad she shared her story with me. If you have a story to share, I would like to hear it.

Kristy's Story

I am a preeclampsia and HELLP Syndrome survivor.  I am the mother of 6 children, three of whom were born early due to complications from these diseases.

My first born was delivered at 36 weeks after a week in the military hospital on bed rest with preeclampsia. I started showing signs of pre-e late in my 2nd trimester and my blood pressure was handled using medication.  I had weekly trips to the OB, regular non-stress tests, regular ultrasounds to monitor growth, and periodic 24 hour urine tests. I went in to the OB's office for a blood pressure check and was admitted to the hospital at 35 weeks. 

When I was admitted, I was put on strict bed rest and had to lie on my left side whenever I wasn't eating a meal or using the rest room.  The night before I would have been 36 weeks, the doctor came in to see me and told me that my labs were elevated and my blood pressure was no longer being controlled by the medication.  He wanted to begin the induction immediately.  I was transferred to a labor room and given pitocin to start labor.  I was also put on a mag-sulfate drip to avoid seizures.  It wasn't run with dilution and it burned my arm so badly I think I was in more pain from that than the contractions.  I was given an epidural site (with no drugs) in case of an emergency c-section.  I labored for about 9 and a half hours and pushed for about 30 minutes and my son was born.  He was 5 lbs, 2 oz and healthy as he could be. 

I was transferred to the recovery room where I spent the next 16 hours.  (Most women stay in recovering about 2 hours; have a meal, use the bathroom, etc.)  I was on mag-sulfate for the entire time I was in recovery.  I wasn't allowed to eat or hold my son.  He was in a bassinet next my bed but I wasn't allowed up to touch him.  I ended up being in the hospital for a week after delivery while they tried to settle my blood pressure.  I have had high blood pressure ever since.  (This was 18 years ago next month.)

My third baby was born at 34 weeks due to preeclampsia.  I had been having blood pressure issues from pretty much the start of the 2nd trimester.  I was supposed to be on bed rest but who can pull off bed rest with a 5 year and a 3 year old?  At 34 weeks I went in to see my OB for a routine appointment and she sent me straight over to the hospital.  My husband asked his brother to watch our other children while we waited to see the perinatologist at the hospital.  He was pretty sure I would be coming home that night.  Instead, the perinatologist felt it was best to begin an immediate induction. 

Once again, I was started on mag-sulfate and pitocin was started.  This time, the mag-sulfate was diluted and didn't cause any pain.  It did cause my vision to be blurry and a headache, but there was no burning in my arm!  I labored for 12+ hours and consented to an epidural at about 12 hours spot on.  I was a 4.  It was 8 am.  At 8:20 am I informed the nurse of intense pressure.  She assured me it was nothing but she would humor me and check me.  I was at a 9+ and ready to push!  Twenty minutes later, a very tiny head emerged!  I remember thinking it didn't feel like it was big enough to be born.  My daughter was 4 lbs, 8 oz with a teeny tiny little head!  She was pink and screaming and rushed off to the NICU.  I was crushed to not get to hold her.  I ended up not seeing my newborn daughter for over 36 hours as they worked to get my blood pressure down using medication and keeping me on strict bed rest and mag-sulfate. 

The following day after delivery, in the afternoon, I was finally wheeled to the NICU to see my baby girl.  I was released from the hospital after 4 days but my wee girl had to stay for 10 days.  I cried so hard when I left the hospital that day.  (This was 12 years ago come August.)

My fifth baby was born at 35 weeks due to Class I HELLP Syndrome.  I had been having a text book pregnancy.  As usual, I was on medication for my blood pressure, but everything was going beautifully.  I had had hyper-emesis gravidarum from about week 7 to about week 18, but my blood pressure was fantastic and I wasn't spilling any protein in my urine. 

In late March, the night of Easter Sunday, I woke up in the middle of the night with pain in my upper abdomen.  I thought is was severe heartburn and woke my husband up to rub my back and try patting it hard to make it go away.  I couldn't get the pain to go and I kept getting in the shower and bath tub to relieve the pain.  By the early morning, we were out of hot water and my husband was boiling water on the stove to add to the tub while I put in a call to the midwife/OB I was seeing.  A nurse from the office finally called me back and told me it sounded like my gall bladder was acting up.  I thought that was odd as I had never had any gall bladder issues, but Ok.  She had me come in and see the OB later in the day. 

The OB started me on Vicodin and sent me home with a follow-up appointment for later in the week.  I took the Vicodin around the clock and never felt well.  Later in the week when I saw her again, she admitted me to the hospital for 24 hours to put me on morphine while this gall bladder thing worked itself out.  Then she sent me home and told me to see her the following Monday.  Meanwhile, I was still on Vicodin around the clock.  On Monday, she had me set up an appointment with a surgeon about appendicitis.  I was sent for another ultrasound and a CT scan.  I saw the surgeon on Wednesday for the results and she said there was no appendicitis but I had a kidney stone.  I was sent again to the hospital to be put on morphine again to pass this kidney stone. 

The next morning, early, the OB came into my room and told me I had preeclampsia again.  I was so crushed.  I told her I was sure it wasn't and she should check again.  My husband went home to shower and while he was gone, she came back and said that it wasn't preeclampsia, but HELLP Syndrome.  I had only sort of heard of HELLP and didn't really know anything about it.  She said they would begin inducing immediately and that a c-section was out of the question.  (No worries there.  I sure didn't want one!)  I asked her to wait until my husband got back.  She said she would wait 45 minutes and in the meantime would start the mag-sulfate.  I was so sad.  When my husband came back, I cried and cried. 

Labor was shockingly hard and fast. My baby girl was born after 4 hours at 4 lbs and 9 oz.  She was so tiny she slipped out with no pushing!  I was allowed to kiss her sweet head and then she was whisked away to the NICU.  I was bleeding excessively.  I was kept on the ante-partum floor for recovery.  That evening, they brought my wee one up for me to see her and then took her away again.  I wasn't even allowed to hold her.  The nurse was cold and unkind.  I don't remember ever feeling so depressed. 

Then things get really fuzzy.  Most of what I know about what happened next has come from my husband telling me.  I started to lose consciousness, going in and out.  A foley catheter was put in.  Blood was drawn every hour to check my platelets.  They continued to crash.  My gums were bleeding.  My nose was bleeding.  I was vaguely aware of being afraid to sleep as I thought I wouldn't wake up again.  I remember people being in my room constantly, looking serious and sober and somber.  Finally, around 6:30 the following morning, my platelets started to slowly come up.  They had dropped down to 20,000.  (Normal is 150,000-400,00.) 

I stayed in the hospital on mag-sulfate for 4 more days before I was released.  The first time they tried to stop the mag, my platelets dropped and my blood pressure started rising.  It took a long time and during that whole time, I was never allowed out of bed or to see my precious baby.  She was in the hospital for 2 weeks before being released.  To this day, she has severe allergies and some other issues that I can't help but wonder if they are related to the HELLP Syndrome.  (This was 7 years ago last month.)

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