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Our Journey: Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Our Journey: Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Last updated on November 28th, 2023 at 08:15 pm

After hearing the long awaited news that my wife, Debbie, and I were expecting twins, we enjoyed a brief time to prepare together. But then things took a horrible turn.

Our Journey: Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Two weeks later, Debbie was diagnosed with severe Hyperemesis Gravidarum – a debilitating and potentially life-threatening pregnancy disease marked by rapid weight loss, malnutrition, and dehydration due to unrelenting nausea and vomiting. Unable to eat or drink, we knew the clock was ticking to get help, to save our twins’ lives.

Within days, I was (briefly) trained to administer daily Total Parental Nutrition (TPN). TPN is a way of supplying all the nutritional needs of the body by bypassing the digestive system and dripping nutrients directly into a vein. Every day at our home, stoically yet nervously I went through a multi-step process of sterilizing everything, flushing lines, mixing lipids and proteins, maintaining complicated pumps, and praying.

Our Journey: Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Although TPN was helping Debbie sustain (and even gain) weight, long-term TPN did have complications. It wasn’t long before she required emergency gallbladder surgery due to sludge build-up. Our OBGYN said, “If her gallbladder is not removed, I am concerned it will rupture and cause fetal and maternal death.” Following surgery, Debbie lost her reflexes and was gasping for air. Now at less than 40 percent oxygen, she was rushed to the intensive care unit (ICU). What happened? I was in near shock.

I soon learned she had mysteriously developed a life-threatening condition called Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). ARDS develops when fluid builds up in lungs, depriving organs of oxygen. Unable to breathe on her own, Debbie was placed on a ventilator and in a medically induced coma. A bewildered ICU physician said to me, “Her case is very complicated. We don’t think she will make it.” He also said at 23 1/2 weeks pregnant they were not prepared to save our twins.

The next two weeks were a heart-wrenching blur. Debbie is from London, UK. Her family travelled to our home in Fargo, N.D., hoping it wouldn’t be to say goodbye. During strict visitation hours, I would sit bedside, fixated on hand holding, hair stroking, viewing oxygen levels, and when allowed, glimpsing our twins’ fluctuating heartbeats. Despite the odds, and to the ICU physician’s surprise, Debbie, and our twins, pulled through.

When leaving the hospital, I pushed her wheelchair onto a wet patch of grass and removed her hospital socks. Debbie’s toes stroked the lush green blades, her TPN scarred arm caressed her belly, and tears dripped off her trembling, skeletal chin. All was not clear.

While at home, Debbie developed a fever that would not subside. After physicians from three hospitals debated why she remained seriously ill, she was air lifted to Minneapolis, MN., where it was later discovered she developed a staph infection in the previous ICU. At 26 weeks pregnant, again an ICU patient, a cross-functional team of physicians (who met one another for the first time) did everything possible to save her, and our twins’, lives.

After another drug-induced coma, a swollen heart, temporary facial paralysis, and a heart murmur, the infection was successfully treated before travelling to her heart. After recovering in the hospital for several weeks, we hesitantly returned home once again. Debbie’s hyperemesis worsened, she developed cholestasis (a liver disease that only happens during pregnancy), and… her water broke.

Thirty two weeks and six days- our twins came into the world.

I’ll never forget Debbie meeting our twins in the NICU for the first time – hours after she underwent a five-hour emergency surgery to repair internal injuries. She is truly a courageous, inspirational, and hero wife and mom (or mum, to John and Freya, our miracle twins who are now two-years-old and healthy, happy, and determined).

Our Journey: Hyperemesis Gravidarum

–Thank you Kelly for sharing your touching story with us. Your family fought the odds and have so much to be thankful for.

Written by: Kelly Larson – husband and father to two year old twins

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