Hellp Syndrome: Knowing About It Could Save Lives

January 30, 2024 By Christine Cox

Hellp Syndrome: Knowing About It Could Save Lives

On Monday, May 25, 2015, which happened to be Memorial Day, my husband and I welcomed baby #2, Cam, into our family. Much to our surprise, Cam arrived 7 weeks early at 33 weeks and 3 days gestational. As a second time mommy, I thought I had a lot of things figured out, but I learned so much from my premature peanut. Our experience was unlike my other pregnancy and delivery. My situation was rare and I hope that another mother, or even father, can learn something from my story.

The Thursday before Cam was born, I was in pain starting in the very early hours of the morning. My stomach just hurt. It was hard to describe the pain but it wasn’t contractions. I guess you could say the pain was a constant cramping feeling. That progressed to my back hurting to the point of feeling like I could not walk. I knew something was wrong so I promptly called my OB and went in for a checkup. My blood pressure was a bit elevated but we figured it was just due to me stressing out. I had a bit of protein spilling into my urine, but it wasn’t enough to be concerned about at that time. The baby’s heart tones were fine according to the Doppler, but just to be sure, I was sent to the hospital for a non-stress test.

The non-stress test also showed that the baby was fine, and my blood pressure had declined by the time I got to the hospital and was hooked up to an IV. However, at that time the doctors were more concerned about my cervix changing than anything else. After an hour or so of monitoring, they thought I may have dilated a bit and since the hospital did not have the highest level of NICU that we would need at 32 weeks I had to be transported to another hospital.

I was hooked up and monitored at the new hospital for another hour. After nothing changed, they gave me some pain medicine and a steroid to help develop the baby’s lungs faster in case we did end up delivering early, and sent me home. I felt fine until Sunday evening.
My toddler and I spent most of Sunday in the pool. It was one of the first really nice weekends of the summer so we took full advantage of the weather. But by dinner time, I started to feel achy again. Not exactly the same pain that I had on Thursday, but similar. The stomach pain intensified (still not a contraction feeling) and I could not get comfortable. Plus my shoulder hurt, but I chalked that up to being in the pool all day and kind of ignored it.

The only time I felt fine was when I was soaking in a hot bath. At one point I did end up throwing up but I also didn’t really think much of that either since I was getting upset. But after taking 4 baths, I finally said to my husband that something isn’t right and we have to go to the hospital again (and by this time it was midnight!)

We dropped our toddler off at grandma’s house and went back to the first hospital. They did a blood test to find out that I had something that I have never heard of before---HELLP syndrome. I was told that we would have to deliver my baby ASAP. Yet again, I was transported to the second hospital since we were still too early in my pregnancy for the first hospital’s NICU.
Cam spent 13 days in the NICU so he could grow and learn things outside of the womb that babies who remain inside the womb normally do (I’ll tell you about this in another blog). This was the most stressful 13 days my husband and I have had. In fact, my husband, a U.S. Marine, said that he would rather go back to Iraq than go through the 13 days in the NICU again!