I nearly died from HELLP syndrome

And it’s not being talked about enough.

It was 2013 and I was pregnant with our first baby. I had already hit the halfway point and we had found out that we were going to be welcoming a daughter into the world. My husband and I were so excited as we bounced names back and forth and started buying a few essential things we would need after the baby arrived.

It was a stressful time of our lives. The year before we had moved to New Mexico so my husband, Curtis, could learn how to do paintless-dent repair on vehicles. My Dad had offered to train him and we were going to live close to my parents, something I hadn’t done since I graduated from high school, in 2004.

So we took a jump and decided to pack up everything we owned and move.

We had been in New Mexico for about 9 months when my parents came to me and told me Curtis was ready to branch out on his own. We had planned on staying at least a year and had rented out our recently purchased home, and we really had nowhere to go. So, we called my in-laws and asked if they could house us for a month or two while we waited for our renters contract to be up. They said of course they could, so we decided to move back to Utah.

I was 28 weeks pregnant the week we decided to move. Between packing, trying to get everything ready to go, and the thought of having to live with my in-laws bouncing around I was exhausted. As we drove the 383 miles back home I rode by myself, ate sunflower seeds, and listened to pop music.

When we arrived at my in-laws I went straight to bed. I felt a little sick and thought that maybe some sleep would help me to feel better. I spent the next 2 days in and out of the bathroom puking up some kind of weird orange colored bile. At the end of the second day my ankles suddenly swelled up to three times their normal size.

I called my OB in New Mexico and she told me it sounded like maybe I had eaten too many sunflower seeds and that the sodium in them was probably what had caused my ankles to swell so badly. As for my puking she said sometimes in pregnancy you can suffer from morning sickness a second time.

On the third day I woke up early, still sick, and got in the bathtub. My Mom had text me to ask how I was feeling and as I went to reply my eyesight started to become super blurry. I tried to get out of the bathtub, but the next thing I knew I was completely blind. All I could see was black. I hobbled my way into the bedroom and woke up Curtis. He groggily asked me what was wrong and I told him we needed to go to the hospital.

We got to the hospital and as they were admitting me I had a seizure. Then, they took us to the L&D floor and the on-call doctor came in. As he was talking to my husband and the nurse was trying to take blood I had another seizure. This time a grand-mal one. The doctor ordered a CAT scan to make sure I hadn’t suffered a stroke because my blood pressure just kept climbing.

In my medical record the last recorded reading they have says it was 187/224.

The CAT scan came back and I hadn’t suffered a stroke, but I was very sick. I had something called HELLP syndrome. The only solution was to deliver our baby, ASAP or we would both likely die. So they took me by ambulance to the nearest Hospital with a level III NICU. It was there, at 29.3 weeks, I delivered our sweet baby girl 10 and a half weeks early. Weighing in at 2.1 pounds and only 14.5 inches long, she was the tiniest human I had ever seen.

Image owned by the author. Our daughter next to her Daddy's hand.

After I delivered her (via c-section which is another story in an of itself) my blood pressure stabilized.

It was like nothing had even happened.

It was like I hadn’t nearly died on the table, before the doctor could deliver our baby.

But I had, and I had suffered from something I had never even heard about.

HELLP syndrome.

Hemolysis, Elevated Liver enzymes, and a Low Platelet count.

No doctor or midwife had ever mentioned that HELLP syndrome could be a complication from pregnancy. When I had upper right quadrant pain a few weeks before our daughter, Jocelyn, was born our doctor told me that it was probably gas pains. When I started to have horrendous heartburn at week 20 they prescribed me Zantac and sent me on my way. When I had some of the worst, and recurring headaches of my life from about 12 weeks on, the doctor told me to take some Tylenol. HELLP syndrome wasn’t even on the radar.

But it should have been.

Every pregnant woman everywhere should be warned about the complications that can arise from having HELLP Syndrome. Every pregnant woman should be educated about the signs and symptoms that could progress into HELLP syndrome. Doctors should also be educated and taught about what to look for in their patients and how to talk about what to watch out for.

If this were to happen, lives could be saved.

And though babies would probably still need to be delivered early, they could be better prepared for living outside of the womb.

Image owed by the author. Our beautiful daughter Jocelyn

Our daughter and I survived HELLP Syndrome.

We are here to tell the story of what it is like to live through it, thanks to a quick thinking on-call doctor who saw what was happening, and recognized the symptoms for what they were.

Other people are not so lucky.

But a discussion needs to happen surrounding HELLP Syndrome and what it is. More pregnant mommas need to have the knowledge, and in turn the tools to handle this sickness if it might strike.

Because it can come out of nowhere, happen to anyone, and come at any time.

As always, thanks for reading!

For more information about HELLP syndrome visit WIKIPEDIA.


Wife, mom, artist, writer. Jack of all trades, but master to none. I know I could be someone if given the chance. I am here to learn and grow, will you join me?

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