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Surviving HELLP Syndrome: A Personal Journey of Hope and Healing

As academic baby said before, she was born premature into this world. Her birth was a traumatic experience due to HELLP syndrome. A pregnancy complication I had never heard of before. Our lives became a whirlwind when I was diagnosed with HELLP. Health, pregnancy, and the anticipation of new life took an unexpected turn, leading us down a path that would test our strength and resilience. 



HELLP syndrome is a life-threatening pregnancy complication. HELLP is an acronym for Hemolysis, Elevated Liver enzymes, and Low Platelets. is a rare and serious pregnancy complication that can threaten the lives of both mother and baby. Today, I want to open up about my experience with HELLP syndrome, from the initial shock of diagnosis to the long road of recovery and the profound impact it had on my perspective.


I understand the fear and uncertainty that comes with facing HELLP. My experience with this syndrome caused me fear and uncertainty and I want to share this to raise awareness and to help other women that might be facing this right now.




The Diagnosis


My journey with HELLP syndrome began with what seemed like routine pregnancy discomforts. Swelling and fatigue were initially brushed off as typical symptoms of carrying new life. After landing in the US, my legs and feet were swollen. I thought well, this is normal because I’m 29 weeks pregnant and usually people are swollen during flights. Also, it was summer which also contributes to swelling at least for me. However, days passed and this didn’t go away. Academic dad also mentioned I was snoring loud at night but again I said I have an academic baby pressing all my organs. This must be because of the pregnancy. 


I called the hospital to ask for an OBGYN appointment, I went to voicemail and left a message, they were supposed to call me back in 48h but I never received the call. Legs were still swollen to the point that if I took off my shoes I couldn’t put them back on. I started to get fatigued just by talking. I kept insisting with the hospital with no results. I feared preeclampsia, so we got a blood pressure machine. My blood pressure was normal. 


One night I woke up gasping for air. Again I thought well, I’m snoring it might be that. But two days later I called the hospital and said I had been waiting for a call back for more than a week. I was not going to hang up until someone gave me an appointment. I knew something was amiss. The person on the other side of the line said that shortness of breath was a symptom to go to the E.R. So I did. After talking to way too many professionals that wanted me to repeat the story I remembered something that was key. My OB in Chile noticed my platelets were low on my last check up but they were within the range. He said we needed to keep an eye on this.


The diagnosis of HELLP syndrome hit me like a ton of bricks – a condition I had never heard of, one that threatened not only my health but also the well-being of my academic baby. The rapid increase in liver enzymes, the plummeting platelet count (all of these in a 3 hour period) and the displacement of placenta were signs that my body (and the baby) were in distress. 



Coming to terms with the reality of HELLP syndrome was overwhelming. The fear of the unknown, coupled with the realization that my pregnancy was turning into a high-stakes battle for survival, left me grappling with a mix of emotions. In an instant, my joyous anticipation of motherhood was replaced by the harsh reality of a medical crisis.



The Treatment 


The ER sent me to labor and delivery where I was monitored for hours, getting blood draws every 30 minutes to an hour. The OB came to the room and explained they believed I had HELLP syndrome. The treatment for it is swift and decisive. The only way to "fix" it is to deliver the baby, even if it means an early delivery. She said: “You won’t be pregnant in the next 48 hours”. It was around 2-3 am. The urgency of the situation and the need for immediate medical intervention were overwhelming. My body was literally shutting down, and the gravity of the situation put me in alert mode. I started asking scientific questions to now a startled physician. She couldn’t believe my reaction and said she felt like talking to one of her interns. After she left the room, I got my phone and called academic dad who had just gone home to take care of Coco. I broke up in tears. I also felt the need to call my parents and let them know what was happening. Then, I didn’t know if that was a goodbye or not and I still get emotional about this moment.


Given the severity of HELLP syndrome, the medical team wasted no time in formulating a plan to address the imminent danger. An emergency cesarean section was necessary to ensure the safety of both me and my baby. The whole situation added an extra layer of stress – suddenly the room was filled with physicians asking me to sign papers and to make a decision for the kind of anesthesia I should get. Every presented option was risky and there was no time to prepare mentally or emotionally for the premature arrival of my child.


They started prepping me to go to the O.R and gave me medication to protect the baby’s nervous system and to prevent seizures for me. Also, they injected another medicine to help academic baby’s lungs development.  The room was a blur of medical professionals and beeping machines. The mixed emotions of relief and concern washed over me as I heard academic baby cry. She was only 32 and a half weeks old. She had hair and nails, maybe she knew she was coming early.



The fear of the unknown, the uncertainty of the outcome, and the realization that my life and the life of my unborn child were in jeopardy were incredibly daunting. It was a bittersweet moment, knowing that my body had betrayed the natural course of pregnancy. I still feel guilty for not providing a good haven for her to finish her complete development, yet I am grateful for the medical intervention that saved our lives.


The Aftermath


HELLP syndrome took a lot from me. It robbed me of the chance to carry my child to full term and now I fear the dream of expanding my family beyond one child. The birth experience, instead of being peaceful, was fraught with anxiety and fear. The recovery from HELLP syndrome has been a gradual process, both physically and emotionally. I might still be recovering from it and I might also never fully recover. The trauma of facing my life's biggest fear and the uncertainty of the outcome left an indelible mark on my journey to motherhood. To the fact that only now, more than a year after it happened, I feel I can share this with others.


The support of my loved ones became invaluable during this period. From managing medications and monitoring my vital signs to helping me care for my academic baby who was in the NICU for almost a month.


HELLP syndrome doesn't affect just the individual; its impact ripples through families and relationships. Academic dad became a pillar of support, while navigating the challenges of parenthood alongside me. The experience strengthened our bond, emphasizing the importance of open communication and mutual understanding in times of crisis. Having each other's back, always. 


Extended family and friends played a crucial role in providing emotional and practical support. Their willingness to step in and assist with daily tasks allowed me the time and space needed for recovery. In retrospect, I realized that the journey with HELLP syndrome had not only shaped me but had also forged stronger connections within my support network.


The Road to Resilience


This experience has given me a newfound appreciation for life, health, and the strength that lies within us to overcome adversity. I am grateful for every single day and cherish the gift of life and motherhood. My journey with HELLP syndrome has instilled in me the determination to share my story, to raise awareness, and to support other mothers who may be facing similar challenges. I know that not every mother diagnosed with HELLP syndrome is as fortunate as I have been, and I am committed to being a voice of hope and resilience for all of us who have been affected by this syndrome.


As I adjusted to the demands of motherhood while recovering from HELLP syndrome, I found strength in the small victories. Celebrating the first smile, the first steps, and the countless milestones of my child became my source of motivation. The experience reshaped my perspective on life, teaching me to find gratitude in moments of simplicity and cherish the resilience of the human spirit.


While the physical scars of HELLP syndrome may have faded, the emotional impact lingers. Post-traumatic stress became an unexpected companion on my journey, prompting me to seek professional support to navigate the complex emotions that surfaced. 

Surviving HELLP syndrome has been a life-altering experience. It tested my physical and emotional limits, but it also revealed the resilience that resides within each of us. Today, as I look at my thriving academic baby, I am reminded that hope can emerge from the darkest moments. My experience with HELLP syndrome taught me to appreciate the fragility of life, the strength that arises from vulnerability, and the importance of cherishing every moment.


To anyone facing the challenges of HELLP syndrome, know that you are not alone. Seek support, lean on your loved ones, and, most importantly, allow yourself the grace to heal. The journey may be difficult, but within it lies the potential for growth, gratitude, and a renewed appreciation for the precious gift of life.


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Disclaimer: Information on academic-family.com is provided for informational purposes only. Our site does not intend to be a substitute for advice provided by a licensed physician, veterinarian or other healthcare professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. If you suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider right away.

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