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Michael's Story
by Christine H.
sub - 11/19/00

Hello, my name is Christine Hargett and I am a HELLP syndrome survivor.  
 

Christine's Story

My story begins back in the fall of 1999 when I learned I was pregnant.  I enjoyed almost every moment of my pregnancy and looked forward with eager anticipation to the birth of my first child in late June 2000.  

I really had very few problems throughout my pregnancy, except for the first four months of morning sickness.  Or should I say 24/7 sickness.  My doctor did put me on half days at work just about the beginning of my 8th month because I had started to dialate and the baby was down in position to be born. 

But other than that, there were no real problems.  Until early May, when my entire family's life started to turn upside down.

I woke up the morning of May 11th with these horrible chest and back pains.  I didn't have a clue what was going on.  All I knew was that I felt horrible. 

 I had a regular office visit scheduled for that afternoon, so I thought no big deal!  I went into work and told my husband to pick me up at lunchtime to take me to my doctor's appointment.  I had four interviews scheduled that morning with prospective employees.  

As the morning progressed so did my pain!  I made it to the beginning of the fourth interview before I couldn't stand it anymore.  I had to end the interview rather abruptly and call my 
husband to come pick me up, NOW!  I was in tears.  I didn't know what was going on.  Everyone kept asking me; are you in labor?  I didn't have a clue.  

What does labor feel like?  All I knew was that something felt wrong!

When we arrived at my doctor's office, they really kind of blew me off.  My doctor told me to that I needed to go home and put my feet up and rest.  I convinced him to hook me up to the monitors to see if I was in labor.  And sure enough I was having contractions about every two/three minutes.  But, I kept telling the doctor that what I was feeling really didn't feel like contractions.  The pain was too high up.  But, what did I know?  

He sent me immediately over to the hospital.  There they confirmed I was in labor 6 1/2 weeks early.  It took about two days of being on magnesium sulfate for the labor to stop. Through an amniocentesis they determined that my baby's lungs were not developed enough to be born.  They wanted to try and hold off the labor for at least another ten days. 

The second morning I was there I woke up with bleeding gums.  They called in a specialist who determined that I probably had Lupus or ITP.  My platelets had fallen to around 60,000. The only concern I had at that point was that I probably wasn't going to be able to have an epidural once I did go into labor 
due to my low platelet count.  

On May 14, Mother's Day, four days after arriving, I was released from the hospital and told to take it easy.   Little 
did we know that we would be returning to the hospital a very short time later.  My body had been trying to warn me all along!

On Monday, May 15th, less than 12 hours after being released from the hospital,  I woke up about 4 am with a severe headache and chest pains.  I thought I was going crazy. To top everything off, we didn't have any local telephone service.  A storm had knocked out the power over the weekend and the Telephone Company had not been out yet to fix it.  So at 4am, half 
dressed and pitch black outside, I am walking around my front yard trying to get a wireless tower signal. The service really stinks out where I live. (I can say that, I work that telephone company).  

Once I was able to get a signal and talk to the doctor on call, I was told to return to the hospital immediately.

I woke my husband up and told him we needed to go back to the hospital.  He was very upset with me that I had not woken him sooner.  We left immediately for my "approved" hospital, 30 minutes away.  We didn't get but about 5 miles down the road when I told my husband that I though I was going to die.  

The headache and chest pains were getting worse by the minute.  We decided to stop at closer hospital and go to the emergency room.  All I kept thinking was that we were at the wrong hospital.  My insurance wasn't going to pay these bills.  We didn't know at the time, but the doctors told my husband later that this was a life saving decision we made.  I would probably not 
have made it another 30 minutes.

 Once there, the nurses looked at me and probably thought that I was a woman in labor who couldn't handle the pain.  One nurse even told me to calm down and breathe; that it wasn't that bad.  I was just in labor. That seemed to be the attitude until they took my blood pressure.  It was 240/180.  That sent everyone spinning in overdrive.  

My husband kept trying to tell them to call my doctor at the other hospital.  That I had just been released from the hospital the day before and had a low platelet count.   I really don't remember a lot about the rest of that day. I learned later that after performing some test they determined that my liver enzymes were 
extremely elevated, my platelets had fallen to around 20,000, I was bleeding internally, my brain was swelling, and fluid was building up around my heart and lungs, and my kidneys had shut down, and they thought I had had a heart attack. 

The Doctors told my husband that I developed a severe case of HELLP syndrome and that I was in critical condition. The hospital Chaplin and the doctor spoke to my husband and family about making a decision about who to save, the mother or the baby.  

They didn't give them much hope that both of us could be saved.  The baby needed to come out immediately because he was in 
complete distress, but I needed a platelet transfusion before they could operate on me.  If they operated before the transfusion, I would most likely bleed to death, if they waited the baby probably wouldn't make it.  

They waited two hours for the platelets to arrive.  I was completely out of it at this point.  But I do remember one thing though.  Lying on the operating table, I remember the doctors saying that they couldn't start until the transfusion was complete and my blood pressure was stabilized in both arms.  

At this point they thought I had already had a stroke and was going to have another one.  By the grace of God, they were wrong!

My son, Michael Price Hargett was born 6 weeks early by emergency c-section at 9:56am on May 15, 2000. Weighing in at 5lbs 3ozs, 18 1/2" long!  

Immediately after the surgery a Critical Care Ambulance transferred me to the ICU unit of a Trauma I Hospital.  My son was transferred later that day, once he was stable, to the same hospital's Hemby Children's NIC unit. 

I remember waking up that night not knowing what had happened.  Being unable to move and hooked up to so many machines. Going in and out of consciousness, I cried out to know what had happened to me and my baby.  My husband was by 
my side in minutes.  He told me that our son was doing ok.  But why couldn't I see him?  I thought they were lying to me.  Thank goodness one of the nurses in the NIC unit had a Polaroid camera and took a picture of my son for me.  He was beautiful!!

After two days in ICU I was transferred to a regular room on the high-risk maternity unit.  There I was allowed to visit my son for the first time in the NIC unit.  I was on so many drugs that I don't remember a lot about that visit.  But I do remember the tears of joy and fear take over my body and soul!  He was so small and fragile looking to me.  I couldn't hold him because he was on a respirator and hooked up to a lot of machines.  And to tell you the truth, I was too scared to.
 
Price really did rather well.  He was on the respirator for about two days had a really bad bout with jaundice.  He spent 10 day in the NIC unit and three additional days in the regular nursery before he was ready to go home.

My recovery didn't go that smoothly.  I started running a fever about three days after the surgery.  I developed pneumonia.  Fluid was building up around my lungs and was causing my right lung to collapse.  Three different times I had a needle inserted into my back, around my ribs to draw the fluid from around my lungs.  

My C-section incision had gotten infected and was opened 
back up so it could drain.  The incision had to heal from the inside out, which meant it had to be left open and packed twice a day with wet compresses.  I couldn't eat because my intestines had collapsed.  I had a NG tube inserted down my nose. After numerous CT scans, X-Rays and two blood transfusion the doctors still could not determine what was causing the 
fevers.  After two weeks of horrible fevers the doctors had about decided that I was probably having an allergic reaction to all of the medicines I was on.  So at that point they stooped all medications.  

I was told I needed to go 48 hours fever free before they would consider sending me home.  The first day after being taken off of the medication, I was fever free.  I was so happy.  But on day 19, two day after being taken off of the medications, my fevers returned.  I was spiking fevers as high as 104.  There went that 
theory.  I cried so hard as the temperature on the digital thermometer kept rising.  I just couldn't stop crying!!!!  Because I knew this meant I wasn't going home.

On Sunday June 4th the doctors came in to tell me they needed to do another surgery.  I had contracted a staff infection around my ovaries and tubes.  And they needed to repair the damage to my intestines. It was very serious.  They thought they might have to do a complete hysterectomy in order to remove all of the infection.  I was completely devastated and unprepared for what 
they had just told me.  

The doctors performed the surgery that afternoon.  And by the grace of God, they were able to repair my intestines and remove all of the infection with having to perform a hysterectomy. 

Thirty-six days after first being admitted to the hospital, two weeks after my second surgery, and two day after my sons 1 month birthday, I was released form the hospital to go home with my son!  I was so happy and scared at the same time!  

While I still have a few lingering effects from everything that happened, my son is doing remarket ably well.  He is a healthy and beautiful six-month-old boy. It has been very difficult for me to heal physically, but more so mentally.  There is not a day, which goes by that I don't relive at least part of what happened.  

Things were not suppose to happen the way they did. 
Having a baby is supposed to be a very joyous occasion, not a 
life-threatening event.  I think we all take childbirth for granted.  

You enter the hospital one-day pregnant and leave the next day with a beautiful bundle of joy! But things don't always go the way we plan. 

One thing I have learned is not to take things for granted, cherish each and every day.  Make the very best of today because tomorrow might not ever come.     

My heart goes out to every other family, which have been touched by this horrible syndrome!  And my love and appreciation goes out to all of the doctors and nurses who took such excellent care of me and my son!  You will always hold a very special places in my family and heart!
 

I would love to hear from others!  I can be reached at 
Christine.B.Hargett@ALLTEL.com
 
 



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