Tony and I found out we were expecting in late September and at around 12 weeks, my doctor noticed that my platelet count was low. Platelets help blood clot and a very low platelet count can cause bleeding complications at the time of delivery. It was unclear if I’d always had a low platelet count and just didn’t know it, or if my count had dropped because of the pregnancy. In January, when my doctor saw that my count was slowly but consistently dropping, she referred me to a hematologist and to a high risk OB clinic for further testing and monitoring.
I did a series of blood tests and in early February I was told I had ITP (Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura) which is an autoimmune disorder that causes platelet destruction. Obviously the diagnosis made me nervous but the doctor said not to worry because it was relatively common and manageable. He said once I hit week 28, they would monitor me closely and start giving me steroids if my count went too low.
Otherwise, we were doing great! The baby seemed healthy and I was finally feeling good again. I was back to exercising 3 times a week and enjoying the bliss of the second trimester.
Things started to change on the Sunday before Valentine’s Day. We went to a friend’s house for dinner and I remember feeling like my legs weighed 100 lbs each. When I got home, my legs and ankles were indeed swollen. I found it strange to be retaining water so early in my pregnancy but I also knew that water retention was very common for pregnant women. Plus I had been to the HR/OB clinic just a few days before and all was looking fine so I didn’t think much of it. My next appointment was in two weeks so I thought I’d bring it up then.
It wasn’t until Valentine’s Day that I started to feel really achy and uncomfortable. We went to a restaurant and I have to say, we had the most unromantic Valentine’s Day date ever. I was super moody and complained the whole night. Poor Tony had to put up with a very cranky wife!
The next morning, I noticed my face looked puffed up. I weighed myself and I had gained 10 lbs since the weekend! I asked Tony if he thought my face was swollen but like any good, loving (and cautious) husband would do, he said: “No honey you look great!”. On my way to work, however, I had the feeling that something wasn’t right. Maybe I was freaking myself out with all the stuff I had read online that morning (yes I tried to self-diagnose myself) but maybe something was truly wrong. I prayed and asked God to give me discernment and peace of mind.
As the day went by, I grew increasingly uncomfortable. By 2 pm, I started having back pains and closed the door to my office so people wouldn’t come knock on my door and disturb me. You’d think by then I would have called the doctor but I didn’t -I was determined not to give in to hypochondria. An hour later my supervisor came into my office to ask me something. As we started talking, I broke down in tears. I don’t know if I was crying because I was in pain or because I was scared. My supervisor asked if I wanted to go to the ER and I said no. She suggested that I least call the doctor on-call and I finally did. After describing my symptoms, the doctor said to come in just to make sure everything was o.k. To this day, I’m thankful that I listened to my supervisor. I can’t help but think that she was the answer to the prayer I had made earlier that day. I don’t think I would have gone to the hospital had she not stepped into my office. I probably would have gone home, taken some Tylenol, laid in bed and waited it out. Our doctors told us we showed up just in time.
A dear co-worker offered to take me to the hospital and stayed with me until Tony was able to get there. At first, the doctor’s thought there was something wrong either my kidney or with my gallbladder. I was relieved to hear that because although painful, it was not a serious health concern. They ran a few more tests, and determined it looked more like preeclampsia. I was discouraged at the news but I had read about preeclampsia in my pregnancy books and I knew that women could be put on bed rest until their babies reached full-term. But within two hours of getting to the ER, my health got much worse. My blood pressure sky-rocketed, my platelets dropped, my vision got blurry, I swell up like a balloon, I started to vomit and the pain in my back got really bad. I was pretty much out of it by then and the doctors were were mainly talking and explaining things to Tony. They gave Magnesium sulfate to prevent seizures (which I call the devil because that stuff is EVIL!!) and did a sonogram of the baby. At some point they also gave me steroids to help the baby lungs mature. Like I said things were a little hazy but I vividly remember the next moment. It was maybe one in the morning and Tony and I were super tired. We were waiting in our room when a team of doctors came in. There were 5 or 6 of them so I knew it was more serious than what we had originally thought. The main doctor told me I had developed Class 1 HELLP which is believed to be a variant of preeclampsia (http://www.preeclampsia.org/HELLP). She said it rarely occurs this early in pregnancy but she had seen it before. She said my condition was quickly deteriorating and at this point, they were concerned I would have a stroke or kidney failure. She said that the baby was in great distress too, the sonogram showed that she wasn’t getting any fluids. I was waiting to hear the solution or the treatment for it. Maybe medication, bed-rest, or surgery I thought.
I was preparing myself for something bad but honestly, nothing like what came next. The head doctor said: “I’m sorry but there’s no cure for this other than immediate delivery”. My heart sank. I was in total disbelief.
The hematologist and some other doctor explained what was happening to my body and the course of treatment I would need. Then it was the neonatologist’s turn and he started to explain what a 25-26 week old baby looked like, what her odds of survival were, what complications she may have, etc. Shortly after, they prep me for surgery. As I was waiting I started to plead the Lord for her life. I found myself bargaining with God just like I use to do when I was a kid and I was in trouble. God, I know I’ve been terrible lately, I’m sorry I’ve been so selfish and crabby, I’m sorry I complained a lot during my first trimester, I’m sorry I haven’t been a great wife, loving friend, patient co-worker…please forgive me…but please let this little girl live…I’ll love her no matter what she has…but God please please please just let her live…
I went in for the C-Section at 3 am (I was put under) and at 3:40 am, our sweet daughter was born. At exactly 26 weeks, she was 570 g (1 lb 4 oz) and 12 inches long. Just a little bigger than a jar of peanut butter.