So here’s how it all went down… Keep in mind, we live in Boston but we were visiting family for the holidays in California. I had been to my Boston OB at 24 weeks and twice at 26 weeks. At these appointments, everything was fine and I was given the okay to fly. We left Boston for California when I was 26 weeks and 4 days. I had also set up an appointment with my California OB for the week before Christmas for a wellness check up. At this appointment, everything was still fine with Baby and myself.
Flash forward to the day after Christmas at my parent’s house…
I woke up around 4:30am with a terrible pain and pressure in my sternum area that radiated over to my right shoulder. It was extremely painful but I figured I should just try to sleep. Just in case it was the worst heartburn of my life, I popped a few Rolaids to see if that would relieve the discomfort. I dozed off and on through the pain but at 6am, I woke up again with the same existing pain. I decided to get up and walk around the house to see if that made a difference. I was starting to worry a bit so I decided to take my blood pressure. The reading was high so I decided I should just rest for a while and see if it goes down. I returned to bed and woke up the Husband to tell him what was going on. He was concerned but I convinced him that I just needed to rest for a bit so we went back to sleep.
Around 8:00am, I woke up again and headed out to the family room with the same horrible pain. At this point, I was more concerned because despite the rest, the pain wasn’t going away. Mom, Sister and Husband woke up and I took my blood pressure again… it was still high. Everyone was concerned and it was decided I should go to the ER to get checked out… just in case.
I arrived at the ER and registered with the nurses. I described my symptoms to the first nurse and she suggested that it could be a gallbladder problem. She sends me on to another nurse who took my blood pressure and got a high reading. She decided with the pain I’m having and the high blood pressure that I must be having a heart attack. At this point, I was rushed into a resuscitation room and was given a chest X-ray and an EKG. Everything came back fine- I was not having a heart attack. Next, they thought I had a blood clot. I was whisked away for ultrasounds of my legs… no blood clots founds. Then, they thought I had a blood clot in my lungs and needed to do a nuclear radiation scan of my lungs. I wasn’t so keen to hear this as there is obviously a risk to the baby but it was decided that it had to be done for my safety and the baby’s. The results came back and I didn’t have a lung blood clot. Great, all that unnecessary testing for nothing!
At this time, my blood pressure was still high and the chest pain was excruciating. The ER doctor returned and diagnosed me with Pleurisy (inflammation of the lungs) as a result of the baby probably pressing on my lungs. There was no attention paid to the fact that I was pregnant and had high blood pressure. I asked the doc about the blood pressure issue and he said he’ll give me a little medicine to bring it down, but on Monday make an appointment with an OB. This didn’t sit well with me and I told him high blood pressure in pregnancy is usually an indication that something is wrong. I’m not a doctor but that’s kind of common sense! He says he doesn’t know what’s causing the high blood pressure but everything will be fine and just be sure to see an OB.
Fortunately, my father-in-law is a neonatologist and he called the ER doctor. He tells him to run a bunch of tests and so the ER doc does. The tests come back showing concerning results and it’s decided I should be transferred to another hospital that has an OB unit. Apparently, the hospital I was at doesn’t do OB! Instead of being transferred in an ambulance, I had to drive myself (well, Mom & Husband drove me). Little did we know, at this point, I was close to having a seizure… and yes, they wanted me to drive myself!
We arrive at the next hospital and went straight to Labor & Delivery Triage. The ER doctor at the previous hospital was suppose to call ahead to Triage and send over my medical records, but of course, that didn’t happen. Triage is clueless about what’s going on but they get me set up. Fetal monitors were placed on my belly and more tests were performed. The results came back showing alarming signs that some of my organs were being damaged and were in the process of shutting down and my platelet count was dangerously low. Shortly after the tests came back, I started having contractions five minutes apart. I didn’t even realize I was having contractions until the nurse told me- I guess I was expecting worse pain.
I was admitted to the hospital and the process of anti-labor began. I was given a steroid shot for the baby’s lungs just in case and more tests were run. My contractions were now running about 2 minutes apart which was alarming but I was still confident that everything would be fine. The nurses took my history and told me how they’ll give me medicine to stop labor. I’m informed that I’ll probably stay in the hospital for a few days to be monitored and then I’ll be given some medicine that will allow me to travel back to Boston. Great, everything will be fine… no problems. At this point, I still don’t have a diagnosis but things are looking up and sounds like they can fix whatever ails me.
After settling in, the nurse came in my room while talking on the phone with the OB on call. Everything seemed fine and then all of sudden she blurted out… “You want me to tell them what?! You want me to tell them that now?” She hung up the phone and then told me she had to prep me for delivery; the baby had to be delivered right away and the OB was on her way. At this point it was 11pm and Husband and I are shocked. I still didn’t know what’s wrong with me and now I had to deliver my baby at 31 weeks?! Husband called my Mom and then his Dad. The OB arrived and she explained my liver was shutting down and it could rupture at any moment. I’m in danger of seizing and going in to a coma, as well as my platelet count being extremely low and a whole other host of issues. Husband and I were in shock. We had no idea how serious the situation was. We were not prepared for this and definitely not prepared to become parents in December- we still had a few more months and we hadn’t even decided on a name yet! I was wheeled off, prepped and given an epidural. It kicked in right away and I lost the feeling in my lower body. My arms were tied down and then panic set in. I couldn’t move my body at all and it was terrifying. After a few deep breaths, I composed myself and the doctors got down to business.
At 11:33pm on December 26, 2009, Tegan was born via emergency C-Section weighing 3.3 pounds, 14.8 inches long. She was worked on by the nurses and the neonatologist and then brought over to me for a quick peek. She was then whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The doctors finished working on me and I was rolled out to my room for recovery. Everything after this point was rather foggy. I barely remember seeing the doctors, signing forms for Tegan, seeing my husband or my Mom after the surgery. I was immediately put on some Magnesium drug to prevent seizures as my health was still in danger and would continue to be postpartum.
The next few days continued to be hazy and I was quite sick but I finally got to see my baby girl in the NICU. It was actually quite heartbreaking to see her with all the tubes and monitors but also so overwhelmingly joyous at the same time. It’s amazing that we created this tiny, beautiful little being. I can’t describe the feeling but it’s most certainly love at first sight. I just wanted to hold her and touch her but I couldn’t… that would come later.
In the end, my mystery illness was diagnosed as HELLP Syndrome, which can be fatal to the mother and baby. Looking back, I really didn’t have any early symptoms- no protein in my urine, no headaches, no high blood pressure or swelling, etc. I did have vomiting but I’ve had constant morning sickness my entire pregnancy so I don’t know if that was a symptom or not? Practically within 24 hours I went from being and feeling perfectly healthy to facing a life threatening pregnancy complication. I’m thankful my baby girl and I are alive and it’s thanks to my father-in-law and the wonderful doctors and nurses that delivered my baby and cared for me. At the time, I had no idea how seriously ill or life threatening the situation was but after reading up on it, I’m especially grateful for our happy ending.
Tegan is doing well but the doctors are still saying it will be at least the end of February before she’ll be discharged. Overall, she’s doing well and we’re so pleased with our little fighter. She’s so feisty yet sweet-natured and amazing in every way. We’re anxious to have her healthy and home with us.
I’m feeling better and I’m continuing to have weekly check-ups and lab work done. My Ob is making sure my body is recuperating and there is no permanent damage to my organs.
So there you have it- the very long version of the birth of our baby girl. If you made it this far, congratulations…. it was a long story!