In my fight against preeclampsia, I advocated for myself and my baby and ended up saving both of our lives.
It started at about 22 weeks of pregnancy when I had trouble with my eyes. I started to step down onto an escalator and realized I couldn’t see where one step stopped and the next started. My doctor reassured me that eye changes were normal.
By 24 weeks, more symptoms popped up. I was very itchy, my ankles were swollen and I had trouble breathing when reclining. The nurse told me that was normal.
By 25 weeks, the symptoms increased. I never had the urge to urinate and when I did, it was orangish brown. My ankles were so swollen that I had to lift up the skin to slide on a pair of shoes that were two sizes too big.
I called the doctor’s office and was told that my appointment was in 9 days and they would see me then. I decided to check my blood pressure on my own so I drove to a local supermarket and checked my blood pressure at the pharmacy. It was 180/120. I was shocked! I took it again and got the same results.
Feeling concerned, I drove to the doctor’s office. Within an hour, I was diagnosed with severe preeclampsia (my protein came back at +5) and I was on my way to the hospital for bedrest. I had a seizure within the hour of being admitted in the hospital when my blood pressure reached 240/180.
Two days later, after my 24 hour urine test came back at +19 and I was showing signs of HELLP Syndrome, I was put on mag sulfate and transferred to a new hospital with a high risk OB and an OB-ICU. More importantly, it was located next door to a hospital with a Level 4 NICU.
Unfortunately, my condition worsened that night and by the next evening I was in liver and kidney failure. An emergency C-section was ordered and my daughter was born a few hours later at just 25 weeks and 5 days. She weighed 1lb, 10 oz and was 13” long.
She went on to spend 90 days in the NICU. She had a PDA ligation, a feeding tube and was vented for a month. She came home on oxygen and with the feeding tube but both were removed within a month of coming home. She is now 14 years old, an 8th grade honors student and a competitive gymnast. She is also an only child.
As for me, I spent another 3 weeks on blood pressure medicine. Ten years later, I was diagnosed with diabetes and required 3 stents in my heart. It was also found that my heart had sustained damage during my pregnancy and was severely underperforming. I went through cardiac rehab and will have to be followed by a cardiologist for the rest of my life. Research shows that women who develop preeclampsia have a much greater risk of heart disease and stroke.
If I have one message to share with all pregnant women, it would be to trust your instincts. If you don’t feel right – go get checked. In my case, it saved both my life and my child’s.
Are you a preeclampsia survivor? We hope you’ll share your story below, to help other moms and babies.