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A HELLP Story
by Wendy
sub - 6/10/01

My doctor told me later that I "went to the edge and back" which is a pretty scary thing to hear (I was asleep during the surgery). But our son was born on April 25th, weighing only 1 pound 11.3 ounces, at 27 weeks and 5 days old. 
 

Wendy's Story

My name is Wendy and I recently went through a bout with HELLP syndrome. I had no idea what HELLP syndrome was until I went into the hospital. I knew all about pre-eclampsia and the risks and signs for it, but no one had ever mentioned HELLP.. it barely even gets a foot note in the "What to Expect" book that just about all pregnant women read. (By
the way, I plan to contact the authors somehow and encourage them to put more information in the book about HELLP.. it should get as much coverage as pre-eclampsia.)
 
This was my first pregnancy. My husband and I were high school sweethearts, went to college near each other, got married after college and finally decided 2001 was the time to have our first child. 

I found out I was pregnant in November of 2000 and I had a great pregnancy. Everything was perfect.. I had no morning sickness, no huge mood swings, my triple screen was perfect, our ultrasounds were perfect...I couldn't have asked for an easier time.
 
In late April, I went in for my routine 7 month checkup. About 5 days earlier, we'd gone out to dinner and after we got home, I started to feel really sick to my stomach. It progressed into a raging, throbbing headache at the base of my skull and a sever backache. I thought at the time that it was the worst case of food poisoning I'd ever had. My only relief was to make myself throw up and then it only lasted about 15 minutes before I felt horrible again. It was so painful, I considered waking up my husband and having him take me to the hospital to get my stomach pumped but I figured I'd thrown up so much there wouldn't be anything left to pump, so why bother? I was up all night walking the house, trying to lay on the couch, pacing the floors, praying for some small relief. 

Finally around 6 a.m. I started to feel a little bettter but I still
stayed home from work. For the next 4 days, I suffered with a sever pain in the base of my skull, and I thought I'd strained the two muscles thatgo up from your neck into your head with all the throwing up I did. The pain in my neck was so horrible, I couldn't even lay down on one side or the other.. I would try to sleep sitting up a little and resting my head on the pillows behind me. But stupidly I figured it was just a muscle pull.. it
would get better. And by the time my appointment with my OB/GYN came around, it was a little better, but still stiff and painful, so I mentioned it to them.
 
At the office, they also took my blood pressure and a urine sample.  Almost immediately, my doctor made me lie on my left side and told me they were sending for an ambulance to take me to the hospital because they thought I had pre-eclamsia. My blood pressure was 186/130, and my urine was +4. At the time, I wasn't worried because I knew they could control pre-eclamsia sometimes, and only being 27 and a half weeks, I knew they would try to control it, not deliver the baby. Plus, I
felt great (besides my sore neck) - I couldn't be THAT sick, I thought. 

At the hospital they drew some blood, and as soon as those labs came back, everything went crazy. They told me that I didn't just have pre-eclamsia.. I had HELLP syndrome, which the doctor described to me, and then they immediately hooked me up to mag sulfate, steroids (to help our son's lungs grow fast), and an IV. 

They did an amnio and an  ultrasound to see how our son was handling everything. Apparently he was doing fine...my stressed body was giving him a boost of growth somehow. 

We waited overnight to see if my liver enzymes would go up
and if my blood platelets would recover a little (I was admitted with platelets of 30,000 - a healthy pregnant woman has over 200,000). 

We were able to wait until the next morning (about 24 hours) and then they decided they couldn't wait anymore.. my body was taking a turn for the worse after being stable during the night.
 
They gave me two bags of platelets before the c-section and then had a terrible time controlling my blood pressure while in surgery. My doctor told me later that I "went to the edge and back" which is a pretty scary thing to hear (I was asleep during the surgery). But our son was born on April 25th, weighing only 1 pound 11.3 ounces, at 27 weeks and 5 days old. 

I spent 2 days in the ICU and didn't even get to see him for the first time until 4 days after he was born. I have recovered for the most part now, though I still tire easily 7 weeks later. 

Nicholas Josef has been in the NICU since his birth and has done remarkably well. He was only on a ventilator for 2 days before he started breathing on his own and now, at 34 weeks gestation, he is only on a small nasal cannula and a feeding
tube until he is able to bottle feed. 

He is doing the best that he possibly can at his small age, and we hope and pray that he continues on this healthy path.
 
After reading so many other women's stories, I now know that we were truly blessed with the way things worked out. I or my son could have died, or he could have had more serious health problems than he currently does. We were also very lucky to have had a doctor who was able to recognize and immediately diagnose the disease, and send us to a hospital where we both had excellent care.
 
This website has been wonderful for me, because after reading so many other stories, I am amazed at how similar so many of our stories are, and it's nice to know we're not alone in our experience. The big difference seems to be in the medical care we received..some of us had doctors who knew what they were doing, some had doctors who were clueless. I hope this website helps to get the word out to everyone that HELLP syndrome is a serious problem in pregnancy, and it deserves
more research and attention than it seems to be getting in this country.

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Updated 
6/24/01