Some stories need to be told. Not because the teller needs to tell them for their own sake (although that is often the case) but also because by telling the story, it could save lives. This months “I Am Canadian Feature” is one of those stories that needs to be told.
What You Need to Know about HELLP Syndrome
When I had my daughter in 2009, I had a pretty “typical” pregnancy. That was, until the day I delivered.
After experiencing a few days of pain and blood pressure that was going up and down, my blood pressure reached a high of 220/100, at which time I went to the hospital, and after much deliberation among doctors and nurses, I was induced. I had a beautiful baby about 8 hours after induction.
Staff let my husband take our baby to visit with family, who were all in the waiting area. What I did know was that during this time they had taken him aside to explain the gravity of the situation. I had HELLP syndrome which had only presented once I delivered.
HELLP stands for: Hemolysis, Elevated Liver enzymes, Low Platelet count. Women with HELLP stand risk of extreme blood loss, liver failure, seizures, among other things.
The hospital staff told my husband that they were doing all they could, but that he had to “make arrangements” and “be prepared”. I heard my husband crying in the hallway. I assumed at the time he was just overwhelmed by the new baby and lack of sleep.
Up to 25% of women with HELLP syndrome die as a result
The next couple of days consisted of platelet transfusions, medication to keep my blood pressure down, and very frequent doctor visits. A nurse sat with me constantly. She would carry our baby over to me to feed her anytime she needed to eat. For the most part, I wasn’t allowed to move. The nurse was my feet and my arms.
Although the staff refrained from telling me exactly what was wrong, in an effort to keep my blood pressure down, I knew it was serious, especially anytime I had a nose bleed, which seemed to trigger extreme reactions from hospital staff.
After a week in hospital, it was over. My blood pressure was back to normal, and blood platelets (which they had been testing me for constantly) were at a normal level.
I used to hesitate to tell my pregnant friends about my experience because I didn’t want to scare them, but I would rather share my experience than hear of someone succumbing to HELLP.
HELLP syndrome can be difficult to diagnose. Talk to your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms during your pregnancy:
- Blurred vision
- Swelling in legs, feet
- Nausea/vomiting/pain after eating
- Pain when breathing deeply
- Upper right side pain
- High blood pressure
- Protein in urine
The main treatment of HELLP is delivery of the baby. Many women with HELLP syndrome need transfusions subsequent to delivery. In rare cases, like mine, HELLP may present itself following delivery.
I am fortunate that I am healthy today, and the HELLP syndrome had no effect on my daughter.
For more information on HELLP syndrome, visit www.preeclampsia.org.
Had You Ever Heard of HELLP Syndrome?
Katie Mitchell is a wife, mother, blogger, Zumba instructor, and an MBA student. Katie works full time, manages her husband’s business and loves to volunteer. She spreads awareness for various causes including cancer, pre-eclampsia, as well as several local charities. Katie began writing her blog “The Ramblings of an Overtired Mama” when she had her daughter in 2009, and writes about just about everything including reality TV, product reviews, charity spotlights and parenting topics.
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