Pre-Eclampsia Stories - Meagan Brunsdon's Story

Since having had Pre-eclampsia and HELLP Syndrome in my first (and so far my only) pregnancy, I’ve heard and read too many stories of how silently each can creep up on an otherwise healthy pregnant woman, wreaking havoc, creating confusion, stress, and much sadness on herself, her family and her unborn baby.

My story is no different. Yet another tale of a perfect pregnancy until, at almost 28 weeks, my carefree world was turned inside out. I awoke one Friday morning with a pain in my upper abdomen. Knowing heartburn was common in pregnancy, I tried to ignore it. By mid-day it was so severe I was having trouble breathing; likened to someone standing on my chest. The words ‘even a little scared’ came to mind. I saw a nearby GP (I was at work), and an hour later I was in a bed at the hospital I wasn’t supposed to be at for another 12 weeks.

I am so grateful to that GP for taking me seriously. He read my blood pressure - way too high, and tested my urine, 4+ of protein. I didn’t feel sick but he diagnosed me with Pre-eclampsia on the spot. One swollen ankle for the past 2 weeks was all I’d seen.

My weekend was spent in hospital on monitors and medications. Early Monday morning I had an ultra-sound to check the little life inside me. The sonographer told me Baby was fine, just small for its age. I felt quite calm; my baby was wriggling around on the screen and I had no reason to think anything was other than okay. Obviously, my state of calmness was very short-lived. My obstetrician visited with news that the baby was 3 – 4 weeks smaller that it should be due to lack of oxygen and nutrients getting to the placenta from my blood. Baby was not growing and needed to be delivered while there was still a strong heartbeat. Induction wasn’t an option; I was to have a Caesarean. Today.

Now I was frightened. After a transferral to a bigger Hospital in town (the small local hospital I was at was not equipped to care for babies born this early) and with my wonderful man right beside me, I was given an epidural along with other needles and medicines. One of them made me feel like death; I suspect it was magnesium to reduce the chance of fits. The pain in my upper stomach was eating me whole and I just wanted to go to sleep so I could block everything out. But I stayed awake and at 3.55pm on March 06 2006, our beautiful boy, Jayden, was born. He was pink and perfect and I’m told he let out a squawk, not that we could hear it! He didn’t set any world records for his small size, but at 705g he was the tiniest baby I had ever laid eyes on. Reports from proud Daddy came back from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and all was looking fantastic. Jayden was doing so well with his breathing; he was on CPAP with no extra oxygen.

The NICU routine became our new life, I went home on blood pressure tablets (which I could stop after a few weeks) and our little man continued to kick on in the same manner he’d come into this world.

Two weeks after Jayden’s birth, when he’d almost reached that magic 1000g, the fairytale came crashing down around us. He had contracted NEC, an ugly, devastating intestine infection. He needed an operation but was too sick to have it. Three days later he was baptised and not expected to last through the night. He did.

Fourteen long days further on, he had stabilised enough to risk surgery. Yet again he pulled through, but was not given much hope of making it through the night. Yet again he did. Another operation was required, but ‘when’ was the decision that no one could make. Although holding his own, Jayden was a very sick baby.

Then, suddenly, his kidneys began to fail and nothing the doctors tried was working. His heart was slowing down. This time we had to accept Jayden was going to die. Tears fall down my cheeks as I write; it’s still so fresh. We held our baby and cuddled him and kissed him for a long, long time. Finally we realised we were just being selfish. His ventilator tube was removed and as we saw his whole face for the very first time, Jayden took his last breath. It was May 12 2006.

Some may consider our son just another statistic of Pre-eclampsia and HELLP. But in only nine weeks he gave us a love and happiness we never thought possible. He taught us the value of hope, courage and patience. Perhaps most importantly, Jayden taught us to live for today and not take anything for granted – a lesson some adults may never learn in their lifetime.