Last updated on September 14th, 2023 at 09:30 pm
On January 28th, 2015 I woke up in the ICU with an IV in each arm and a catheter, my hospital gown was soaked in breast milk, I had no idea why I was there….My twins, Theodore and Arielle, were born on January 16th, 2015 via scheduled c-section. Everything went as planned with the surgery; both babies were over six pounds and healthy. We were all monitored closely for the next few days at the hospital. My blood pressure was always normal and my recovery was going well. I did notice my ribs were quite painful but the doctor figured it was due to them going back into place after the pregnancy.
My headaches started the day after we came home. Tylenol and Advil were keeping them away but when they came back, they were horrific. I had heard of people having spinal headaches after c-sections, so I didn’t worry too much about them. I had some other potentially worrisome symptoms, which I now know are all things to watch out for, even postpartum. I had:
- Blurred vision
- Nose bleeds
- Severe swelling
- Extreme rib pain, mostly on the right side
When I look back, I know that all these issues were cause for great concern, but I was never made aware that postpartum preeclampsia was even a thing. On January 27th things went very bad. I was getting confused and I could read things multiple times and they weren’t making sense. At one point I had messaged a friend about my breast feeding issues. Reading the message now, terrifies me. The message said this: Ya, that a for sure. I keep having to ready things like ten times cause I lose fraction of what I was even treating. We are eating to feed until fat then we will be how long the will sleep on their own, although my grumble drum lovable won’t lace form than a than hours I’m sure. I’m freak afraid I’m going to get mastitis again, my fright boob keeps fertile stupid shooting pains. Haha sorry, rand rant. She thought it was autocorrect. It wasn’t.
At around 11:00 am when I went to the kitchen to make lunch, the confusion really set in. I was staring at the fridge wondering what was all over it; I didn’t know what magnets were. I opened the cutlery drawer and pulled out a spoon and I didn’t know what it was. I stepped into the living room where my husband Chris was with all the kids. I asked Chris what the spoon was. He looked confused and told me it was a spoon. I remember holding the spoon up and starting to cry, because I truly didn’t know what it was.
Chris asked me to sit down, at that point I was bawling and starting to panic. I desperately pointed at my arm and asked Chris what it was, and he told me it was my arm. I then said I was going to faint and I dropped to my hands and knees. I had seizures, two or possibly three.
Chris called 911, and rolled me onto my side while trying to take care of the twins and our then 2.5 year old, Evie. When I left in the ambulance Chris called a friend to take the twins and headed to the hospital to see me. Apparently I had a lot of tests done that day; it’s probably a good thing that I don’t remember the lumbar puncture. Chris tells me that I didn’t know who he was. My mom tells me that I was so swollen that I was almost unrecognizable. I do have one tiny memory of Evie wearing a little dinosaur mask, and it makes me smile.
The next day my doctor came to see me and couldn’t believe how small I was, as my swelling was gone. I couldn’t speak properly because my tongue was huge, and I had bitten it when I was seizing and had bled all over the floor. When Chris came to see me, he was relieved that I knew who he was. My parents also brought Evie for a visit but weren’t allowed to stay for long. My world was becoming more clear.
The diagnosis wasn’t quick but the doctors were leaning towards postpartum eclampsia. My blood pressure was extremely high and they were having trouble getting it down. After a brain MRI that showed multiple damaged spots, the diagnosis was official: I did have postpartum eclampsia.
On day three I was moved out of ICU to the maternity floor which meant I could finally see my babies. I was so overwhelmed and emotional when I saw Arielle and Theodore again, it was almost too much for me, so Chris only stayed with them for a short while.
After three more days, I was released with two different blood pressure medications and orders to have my blood pressure checked twice a day for the next couple of weeks. I had my driver’s license suspended due to the seizures, so we had to pack the whole family up twice a day just to get my blood pressure checks done.
After less than six weeks, my blood pressure was normal and I was completely off the meds. My body was healing quite well; the emotional healing was the hard part. I was having panic attacks when I would forget little things, I was crying a lot, simple parenting tasks were overwhelming me, and I just couldn’t grasp the idea that I had almost died.
Postpartum preeclampsia and eclampsia are not spoken about enough, if at all. We’re led to believe that we have our babies and then we are in a land of sunshine and roses. I’m told that eclamptic seizures often cause coma and death. Thankfully, I am one of the positive statistics that avoided that.
I don’t want to scare people with my story, I want to raise awareness about the dangers of postpartum preeclampsia and eclampsia. People need to know this is a real thing. This shouldn’t have happened to me. Had I known it was a possibility, I would have contacted my doctor when the headaches started. I missed out on almost a week of my newborn babies’ lives. I also missed out on breastfeeding and other bonding moments and I will never get those moments back.
If you are pregnant or a new mom and are exhibiting any of the symptoms I mentioned above, please seek medical attention. It could save your life.
Christine Johnson is a military wife and stay at home mom to a teenager and one year old twins. Before becoming a mom, Christine was employed in the auto industry and had a passion for anything automotive related.
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