Things were running smoothly at the beginning, and I was living on peppermint tea and anything ginger. Gotta love morning sickness and the cravings!
All through my pregnancy I’d had high blood pressure, but it sat at the top end of the normal range and was posing no risk to the baby at that point. So when my GP took my BP twice and grimaced, I got a little worried. I was around 28 weeks + 6 days and my blood pressure was sitting on 160/90. The doctor rang my ob and scheduled an appointment for the next day, Wed 6th March. I went home with strict instructions to keep off my feet. I went to my ob the next day as planned, and when he took my BP it had risen to 160/100. I was admitted to hospital (which was just across the road from the ob) that afternoon: ‘Do not pass go, do not collect $200’ sort of thing. Brett had to go home and get my things for me. I was on bed rest and observation for at least the next 24 hours.
On the Thursday I begged my ob to let me go home and sleep in my own bed. He let me, as long as I was back by 8am Friday. After numerous urine tests and blood tests I was told that I had Pre-Eclampsia and that I wasn’t going home until the baby was born, be it ten days or to term, which was just over 10 weeks away. We lived in a country town at the time and unless you were 36+ weeks the hospital didn’t want to know you. My ob spent a while ringing Obs in the Liverpool area to find one who would follow through and coordinate my care. I was transferred to a larger hospital later on that night as a precaution. If my baby was coming early, he/she would need Level 3 neonatal care. I was put on blood pressure tablets and sent on a bumpy two-hour ambulance ride.
My BP was checked every few hours and with the arrival of Brett and my Mum, Saturday passed with little boredom. Sunday started much the same way. At around lunchtime I started to get a pain at the bottom of my rib cage. I thought it was nothing more than hunger, ate lunch and went to the courtyard with every one, as it was quiet time in the ward. The pain got worse as the afternoon progressed but I put up with it. Brett decided to stay with me that night, as he worked not far from the hospital. We ate dinner and then settled to look at some boys’ names.
At about 7pm I had Brett call the nurse, as the pain was more intense. My BP had gone up and the tablets weren’t doing anything. My new ob had been phoned and had advised the nursing staff to get me upstairs to the birthing unit for extensive observations and hourly blood tests, to monitor my liver and kidney functions. She arrived at the hospital at around 11pm. The birth of our son was imminent and it was a matter of buying hours. We spoke to the neo-natologist about statistics on survival rates and possible outcomes. It was during this conversation that the ob came in, saying “Time out, time out. Let’s go. We need to get this baby out now!”
It was 2am. My liver and kidneys were failing. I was catheterized due to oedema, and as I was retaining so much fluid, an epidural was my only option for the C-section. I was taken to the OR and at 2.54am on the 11th March 2002, our son Braedon Caleb was born at 30 weeks gestation, weighing 1430grams. He was quickly whisked away as he wasn’t breathing, and was revived using the bag and mask. I was able to have a short nurse of him before he was whisked away and put on CPAP. Chest x-rays were done and RDS was diagnosed. Braedon was on CPAP for three days and received a total of four days oxygen therapy. He developed jaundice and was treated with phototherapy. One of Braedon’s treatments that Brett found very funny was the caffeine he was receiving for the apnoea and bradycardia. I seem to recall a comment to the effect of “Hook me up”.
I was told that with Pre-Eclampsia, once the baby is delivered you start getting better. I didn’t. I went downhill. After many tests I was diagnosed with HELLP syndrome. I was an IC patient in the birthing unit for five days – all this time with the epidural in. In that time I saw Braedon twice. I saw him when he was born, and a couple of days after his birth they wheeled my bed in to see him. I was released from hospital 10 days after Braedon’s arrival and the day after I was released, Braedon was transferred to a hospital closer to home with a Level 2 nursery. We were lucky with him – we had no major setbacks. He just kept going from strength to strength. He was released from hospital on the 18th April.
Braedon is now almost five years old and he is definitely over his early problems. When Braedon was born we lived in one of the coldest climates in NSW. He used to get a lot of respiratory infections, which spread to his inner ears and lungs. He has been hospitalised three times since he came home: firstly to repair an inguinal hernia; the second time with pneumonia; and a third time with a severe ear infection.
When Braedon was almost two years old, Brett applied for a compassionate transfer (he’s a teacher in the State system) to a warmer climate. Even though we had letters from a paediatrician and the early intervention centre, the Education Department initially declined the application. In desperation I took Braedon to Queensland to stay with my parents for the last two weeks in June 2004.
It was the healthiest two weeks of his life to that point. After returning home we went back to the paediatrician and he changed “May benefit from a warmer climate” to “Would benefit from a warmer climate”. Brett got a transfer and we now live just south of the Queensland border. We moved here two years ago, at the beginning of 2005. Braedon has been to the doctor once since we moved, with no more antibiotics or hospitalisations.
Braedon has a few expressive language delays and a few fine motor delays. When he was born we talked with the people who ran the Early Intervention Centre, whom we knew very well, and from an early age he received physiotherapy, then speech therapy when he started talking, and attended their playgroup. In conjunction with this, Braedon has also attended long day care/pre-school, starting with just two days a week and building to four days a week. He’s now in ‘big school’ without holding him back a year and he loves every minute. He’s the smallest in the class but what he lacks in size, he makes up for in attitude.
Since moving, our little family hasn’t looked back. We are currently pregnant with ‘Number 2’, and I am thinking about studying nursing, with an interest in neonatal care. Brett has researched some of the educational needs of premmie kids and we both try and encourage parents through a website that we’re a member of, which is specifically designed for parents of premature children.
August 3rd 2007 we welcomed our little princess to the world. Aurora Isabelle was born at midday weighing a mere 669g at 26 weeks gestation. I developed severe Pre-Eclampsia and HELLP Syndrome again. It seems I go against most things written about this condition because I delivered earlier in the 2nd pregnancy instead of going a little further. Aurora was due on the 9/11/2007.
On 14/11/07 at 103 days old we were able to bring her home. Today on 3rd December she has been home nearly 3 weeks and is 3.73kg. I don’t think we’ll be having anymore children.