Sunday, May 6, 2012

Survivor Sunday

This is the first in what I hope to be a regular feature: Survivor Saturday (or Sunday). I am honored that Laura shared her story with me, and honored that I could run 8 miles this morning for her. It was a rough run, but remembering Laura and her children helped me through it. If you have a PE story, you can submit it to

This story highlights the need for women to advocate for ourselves. The doctors we trust with our lives and the lives of our children don't always listen to our concerns. This mother knew something was wrong and fought to get the care she needed.

Laura's Story

I was pregnant with my first child living in St. Louis when, at 16 weeks, I started seeing spots occasionally and throwing up. I hadn't had any morning sickness at all during the early part of my pregnancy, but the doctor assured me that all of this was normal and that I was "young and healthy." He told me not to worry. Each visit I would remind him that I was throwing up a lot, almost daily, and that I was seeing spots.

At 22 weeks, I started feeling pain in my abdomen and went to the ER. They did no blood work, but took a urine sample and did an ultrasound. They sent me home, saying I was fine. I was severely dehydrated, but without blood work, this was not caught. A nurse friend of mine told me that I should start eating ice chips and I began to feel better.

I was still throwing up and seeing spots when at 31 weeks I said goodbye to my doctor and moved 20 hours south with my husband's job. At this point I was very, very swollen, but my doctor continued to say that I was "young and healthy." During the move, our moving truck had a blow out, so I stopped the car that I was driving while we waited for it to be repaired and I laid down on my left side. I was having headaches and feeling very bad, and I had heard that laying on your left side was good for you.

We made it to our new home. I continued to swell, but my family who hadn't seen me in months just thought that I needed to prop my feet up. They all went home. At 33 weeks, I called my new doctor who I wasn't scheduled to see for another 6 days. I begged for some advice telling the nurse that I had a sinus infection and felt terrible. She said that over the phone she could give no advice and that they were booked for the day. I called my old doctor, but the nurse there said that since I hadn't been seen in two weeks, they could give no advice either. I called the new doctor back and begged for something telling the nurse that I was incredibly sick. She said that someone called in and cancelled. I could be seen at 3pm.

3pm came and I was taken back for regular labs. I was in the lab waiting area for all of 3 minutes when a nurse came to take me to the doctor's office (not an examination room). She told me that I was sick with preeclampsia; I needed to go to the hospital. I was in shock and said, "No this is just the stress of moving." She said they'd do more tests at the hospital. I cried.

At the hospital they started treating me for PE. I soon realized that I wasn't going back home. Less than 24 hours after arriving my new doctor came to tell me that I wasn't getting better. They couldn't stabilize me. My only hope was to deliver or I'd soon die of a seizure. They rushed me into an emergency C-section. I delivered a healthy baby girl weighing 4 pounds 1.9 oz. The doctor told me that she was well because I'd been under stress for so long, so the baby had matured faster.

I was sent to a special room in the maternity ward that had an alarm on it that sounded if the door was opened. I was not allowed to move. I was to lay on my left side. I couldn't see my baby. I wasn't allowed to watch TV or to talk. 5 days passed. My mom, who arrived shortly after my Allyssa was born, insisted to the doctor that I would not get better if I did not see my baby. I was very upset and had decided that it was better to pretend that I had no baby at all than to know that I wasn't allowed to see her. My BP was still very high, one kidney had failed, I was still at high risk of seizing, and they couldn't give me any more fluids for risk of drowning. They let me see her. 5 hours after seeing my baby girl, my blood pressure dropped some and I finally had started to release fluids.

I got to go home. My baby came home after only 19 days in the NICU. My blood pressure remained high for 8 weeks, with medication, and my kidney healed and began to work again.

About a year later, we became pregnant with our second child. I had been told that the risk of having PE again was 30%. I told my doctor that I was sure that I would get it again and asked that she do lots of tests on me so that I didn't get as sick. She agreed to the testing.

This pregnancy was much different. I, again, didn't get morning sickness, but this time I didn't get nauseous late in my pregnancy either. I was very tired, and at time I would swell. Each time I would swell, if it was significant, and especially if I had a headache, I'd head to my doctor's office and have tests run. Each time I was fine.

At 36 weeks, she told me that there was trace protein in my urine, but that I was okay. I went home. At 37 weeks I had an 11am appointment, my protein was at +1 and she sent me to the hospital for further tests. An ultrasound revealed that my placenta was measuring 35 weeks, but it had been on target before. She told me that I had preeclampsia again, and my placenta wasn't doing its job. 5pm that same evening, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy. My PE went away with delivery and we were able to go home the next day.

2 years later, we became pregnant with our third child. At this point, I knew that my risk for PE was very high. I had moved again, and started off the pregnancy with a brand new doctor. I told the doctor about my history, and she agreed that she would keep a close eye on me.

At 32 weeks I had trace protein in my urine, but at 33 weeks it was gone. This happened again at 35 and 36 weeks. I then made it all the way to my scheduled C-section at 38 weeks. I gave birth to a healthy baby girl. 3 days after the birth I was feeling very badly. I went to the ER, but all the tests came back fine. They gave me fluids and caffeine and sent me home telling me to continue drinking fluids and caffeine. While one nurse thought that it was related to my spinal, the anesthesiologist insisted that it had nothing to do with it. I really have no idea what happened there. One week following the birth, my BP was high. It was still high 4 weeks following the birth. At 5 weeks, it had gone back to normal.

My scarring from my three C-sections is very bad, so my husband and I have chosen not to have more biological children. We feel that the risk of another case of PE and the risks associated with the bad scarring is too high. It saddens me that I won't carry more children, but I feel very blessed to have three healthy ones. I wish that I had known what PE was when I was pregnant with my first child. I also wish that I hadn't been told that I was "young and healthy" by my first doctor. PE can happen at an age.

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