Thank you for visiting my 2018 Promise Walk for Preeclampsia fundraising page.
I am grateful for your donations and for your help in spreading the word about preeclampsia. My goal is to help our community raise funds and awareness and save the lives of moms and babies!
Please make a donation to support our efforts to fund education and research into this life-threatening disorder of pregnancy. Read my story below:
I survived HELLP Syndrome, by the grace of God…a testimonial by Brandee Weber
I consider myself pretty healthy. Sure, I eat too much sugar, but I balance it with protein and fruit and veggie servings throughout the day. My dad was a Type I diabetic, diagnosed at 15 months old, so I grew up eating 3 balanced meals on a schedule every day, with fruit for a snack in the afternoon and before bed and milk every night for supper. I’ve kept a similar regiment into adulthood. So, when I got pregnant (besides being a little on the old side at 33) there was no reason to think my pregnancy would have any complications…and it didn’t. Things went along swimmingly. So well, in fact, that I started getting a little cocky when appointment after appointment my blood pressure would be low, my weight would be good…never in excess, but just enough, and my belly growth would be perfect. I had no morning sickness and felt great. I hardly knew I was pregnant.
There are so many unknowns, especially for first time parents. I’m a person who avoids doctors at all costs, and I try to avoid taking medications…even aspirin for a headache until it gets so bad I can’t take it anymore. So, I had no idea how to go about choosing an OB/GYN. I barely even knew that was a thing. One thing I did know is that I wanted to have my baby naturally. It seems everyone I knew, who was having babies, was scheduling their due dates and inductions around what fit best into their calendar. I don’t consider myself very judgmental, but around this subject, I have to admit, I was judging. Pregnancy is a natural phenomenon. People and animals have babies all around the world every day. It’s been happening since way before I took a breath in this world, and no one has to schedule a time out for the process. It just happens when it’s supposed to happen! So, when looking online trying to figure out who to pick to deliver my baby I felt like I was taking a shot in the dark. Ultimately, I picked who I picked because she was a woman. I’m sure men can deliver babies just as well as women, but for my piece of mind a woman was the way to go. Also, she had been delivering babies for about as long as I had been alive. I felt that would make her more of the “old school” way of thinking, and hopefully she wouldn’t try to force me to pick what day would be my child’s birthday. I couldn’t handle that kind of pressure!
My daughter was due January 15th. I think it was an appointment in early December where everything was normal, except my blood pressure. It had been so low previously that seeing it high brought about some questions. “Did you do anything extra stressful today? You have a stressful job. Maybe that caused it. We’ll just keep an eye on it for next time.” My job wasn’t really that stressful, to me who had been doing it for more than 8 years, and with automation it had gotten less stressful recently. But, I felt great and didn’t think there should be any cause for alarm, so I went about my merry way. I was told to monitor my blood pressure at home while at rest, and it was still high. At the following appointment about 2 weeks later my blood pressure was high again. So, I was instructed to do a 24 hour urinalysis. I had to take a bucket with me everywhere I went and put my pee in it for a total of 24 hours. It was annoying and weird, but I appreciated the doctors making sure everything was fine. My recollection tells me that was on a Friday, and my pee was submitted to the lab first thing Saturday morning. Still, I felt pretty good, but heartburn was starting to set in.
By Saturday, it was a different story. The heartburn had gotten so bad that I couldn’t sleep. I waited until Sunday morning and called the doctor. She said to take Zantac twice a day to make the heartburn less intense. This was December 22, and our family was celebrating Christmas in Omaha that day. I hated to miss, as I love Christmas celebrations and being with family, but I felt horrible. I told my husband to go ahead and go without me (as it was his side of the family), and I would stay home and rest and hopefully start to feel better once the Zantac kicked in. That did not happen! A few hours later when my husband called on his way home I only felt worse. I could hardly wait for him to get home because my heartburn was so intense it was debilitating. I didn’t know what to do.When my husband got home and called the doctor, she waited on the phone while I took my blood pressure, then sent us to the hospital. By now we were far into the evening on Sunday. At the hospital I had to pee in a cup, and my pee was a color of orange I had never seen before. The doctor did not yet have the results from my urinalysis, so calls to the lab went out while I got an IV. Finally, the lab called back with results. The test was normal. GREAT NEWS! I had the flu. After five hours, another IV bag of fluids and antibiotic later I was on my way home to get some rest. Well, it seemed like a good idea, but my body had other plans. Two hours later at 12:45am on Monday my water broke. When we showed up back at the hospital everyone was surprised. An exact quote was, “Of all the people we sent home, you weren’t the one we expected to see back here tonight.”
After confirming that my water had, in fact, broke I was admitted to the labor and delivery unit to wait it out. The process would be slow, but my baby was coming. More blood was drawn. Then a short time later, blood was redrawn. The first results were all out of whack. They think something got messed up somewhere. Then, when the second results came back the same as the first, the tone changed. My body WAS out of whack. I had some weird thing I had never heard of before. Here was the gist: The normal human body has around 150,000 blood platelets or more. I was down to 28,000. My heartburn was a result of my liver enzymes being elevated. My sweet, precious baby girl was making me sick. We needed her out, so I could start feeling better. Suddenly, at 36 weeks and 5 days my baby was being born, and my delivery was now high risk. So, getting the baby out seems easy enough, but it was more complicated than that. The first step was pitosin. Labor needed to be sped up. I couldn’t have an epidural. I never quite figured out why, but I was ok with that because from the beginning I wanted a natural delivery. An anesthesiologist was in the room making me sign a waiver. Since my blood platelets were so low a C-section wasn’t ideal. It would be like a major surgery. I would have to be put under. My husband could not be present. I would likely need blood transfusions because with platelets so low my blood wouldn’t be able to clot. I signed the waiver, and as politely as possible I told that doctor I didn’t plan on ever seeing him again. I would not let this delivery come to that if I had anything to do with it.
About 12 hours after my water broke, this perfectly healthy 5 pound baby girl was born. The NICU nurses looked her over, took pictures of my husband cutting the chord and went on their way. This little Mighty Mouse didn’t need to spend a second in intensive care. I loved her more than I could know. Things weren’t so bad. I can’t remember for sure when the conversation happened about what really happened. It may have been the next day. I do remember my doctor saying you have HELLP Syndrome. H-E-L-L-P. It stands for Hypertension. Elevated Liver Enzymes. Low Platelets. During delivery my platelets dropped as low at 27,000. I was told it was pretty serious, and I could look it up in more detail when I got home. The doctor said the body works in mysterious ways and knows best what’s going on with it. My water breaking was my body telling the doctors to take another look. It clued them in to a problem that easily wouldn’t have been caught in time, especially since results from a urinalysis just a few days before came back normal. I had to wear a fall hazard bracelet. I couldn’t shave for at least two weeks. Something as small as a cut from shaving could cause me to lose too much blood. Now that the baby was out my body would start to recover. I had to spend an extra day in the hospital. It was Christmas. A steady stream of nurses, “specialists” and blood takers filtered into my room the whole time. I felt good. I thought it was all normal. It wouldn’t be until 3 ½ years later during my second pregnancy that I realized how “Un-normal” it was.
I talked to my sister about the baby, the delivery, this weird thing I got called HELLP Syndrome. She works for a program in Florida called Healthy Start. Their goal is to make sure moms and babies have healthy pregnancies, deliveries and livelihoods. Naturally, she looked it up online and said, “Woah, Brandee, I didn’t realize how serious that was. You could have died.” Yeah, sure, I thought. It’s so rare. I felt fine. My baby was healthy. No big deal. People in the United States don’t really die from child birth. I read the statistics in my free time. Only .2-.6% of all pregnancies are affected by HELLP. Of those, about 2% end in maternal mortality. Those are pretty good odds, right? Imagine my shock when about half a year later I get a call from a friend saying, “I know you don’t have Facebook, so I wanted to let you know that something happened to Jeni.” My automatic thought was something had happened to the baby. “She passed away.” What? How is that even possible in this country? “She had some extreme form of preeclampsia I have never heard of before called HELLP Syndrome.” WHAT? My mind flashed in a million different directions. With statistics like that how could someone I know, who delivered a baby in the same hospital as me have the same problem. And even more surreal, how could she die from it?
I can’t explain the emotional rollercoaster I felt at that moment. My body started shaking from the inside out. My mind flashed to moments of my life…especially the recent ones with my daughter. How would her life be different if I hadn’t made it through to the other side? Would my husband be able to handle it without me? Who would help him? I loved my baby girl SO MUCH! I couldn’t imagine not having those moments with her. I called my husband as soon as that phone call ended. I was in shock. I needed to try to put into words some of what I was feeling. I held onto my baby and didn’t want to let go. I would be nursing her and just tear up with thoughts of what could have been. I felt guilt. I didn’t deserve to survive my ordeal any more than Jeni did. In fact, I’m pretty sure she impacted more people in her life than I did. I’m definitely not perfect. I’m not worthy.But God has a plan for each of us…in life and in death. I never want to take my situation, my life, my family for granted. I’m a natural cynic. I’m not sure if it comes from all the years in the news business and seeing bad things happen all around or if I was just born this way. I’m convinced that something beyond tragic is going to happen to me at some point in my life. It’s a horrible way to be. I’m not proud of it. I do my best to go throughout my days being thankful for what I have and trying to be the best I can be-the best mom, the best wife, the best friend, the best worker. Maybe someday I’ll learn why things turn out the way they do. Until then, I thank God for what I have and pray that He helps me make the most of it. I know I’ve been blessed. I now have two beautiful, perfect little girls. I survived.