A Call For HELLP

August 07, 2023 By Danielle Sanchez

A Call For HELLP

April 22nd 2021 I was admitted to the hospital at my 36 week checkup due to elevated blood pressure. I cried all day at the thought of leaving my daughter sooner than planned, feeling helpless as we waited for results and defeated my body was failing me. 24 hours later it was confirmed I had preeclampsia. They would keep me on bed rest and deliver me in 4 days… each day I had multiple checkups, and a day shy of my scheduled C-section, my water broke and my son was born. Everything seemed to go smooth, until I was wheeled up to recovery and suddenly that day felt different. A nurse handed me a phone and the doctor said "you are very sick and have HELLP syndrome and we need to monitor you." I had a slight idea of HELLP but not enough to grasp how serious it was about to become.

Within 24 hours my belly seemed to swell more, and I started to develop such bad stomach pain I was screaming. With every scream and every single tear, I was met with an awful medical support system. Suddenly I was vomiting bile; I couldn’t hold my son. Nurses and even doctors said it was normal. After begging the nurses to figure out what was going on they determined I had an ileus … I needed an NG tube to drain my stomach. I remember the nurse inserting the tube being so cold and telling me how uncomfortable it would feel. I was screaming and crying- at that point I would have done anything to find relief. Due to how severe HELLP was I couldn’t even take most medications since every single major organ of my body was failing. I was physically being tortured by my own body. I had every single specialist in my room and the small amount of hope I carried left when I asked a specialist if I would be okay. I wanted him to say yes; instead he said "I don’t know." That "I don’t know" took everything from me. I really believed I would die from the physical pain, from the nurses rolling their eyes and not believing me until something occurred and it was too late. They kept forcing me to walk, telling me I’m regressing in my recovery that finally my body could no longer fight.

I woke up in the ICU. My baby was discharged, I was no longer recovering postpartum, I was an ICU patient. No one brought me pumps, no one remembered I needed pads. I spent 13 days in the hospital and I fought for my life. Everyone blamed each other, yet no one apologized for what I experienced. No one took accountability. A week before being admitted, I called the after hours line of extreme pain and was told take an Advil and walk around. That was the first true sign of HELLP. I mourn April 22nd, the piece of me I lost when I was admitted. It is a low place in life to go and a reserved place in your heart to accept you might die.

My son Jonny will be 2 April 25th and he is fearless, loving, and thinks I’m his whole world despite not having me by his side the first two weeks of his life. Preeclampsia and HELLP have forever changed who I was, some days I’m grateful it showed me how precious life is and how strong I am. Others I relive those days, open a medical file, see a blood pressure cuff and feel like the world is closing in. I know I am lucky to have made it out of that hospital and that not every women does. I hope if anything my story reminds people we are our best advocates. I will never stop fighting for awareness and accountability. I’m so thankful for my husband, our family, and friends. The people who called to help guide us on decisions, who brought our family food, the people who help me breathe when I’m triggered and send the checking-in text. The people who stand by me in respecting that April is a sad and happy month.