Raising Awareness in Syracuse: The Utano Family

May 25, 2015

Military spouse Beth Utano figured the worse complication she would have in pregnancy was her husband being off at Basic Training. Four months before her due date, all that changed. In her own words, the 2015 Syracuse Mission Mom tells her story:

10287343_10201639614744931_1029410408_n[1] (1)My name is Beth Utano and I am a Preeclampsia and HELLP Syndrome Survivor.

In November 2013 we found out we were expecting, and we were so excited. Our baby was due July 13, 2014. My husband Mike had recently joined the US Air Force and was leaving for Basic Training in Texas in March and would not be back to New York until October. He would miss the birth of our first child, but being a military wife it was something I had to deal with. A few weeks before he left we found out we were expecting a girl. We chose the name Samantha. Bringing my husband to the airport to say goodbye was very hard, but I had to be strong. He needed to know that I would be okay while he was gone.

Towards the end of March I started having headaches and heartburn throughout the day. Many people told me that heartburn meant my baby would be born with a lot of hair. The first weekend in April the pain was so bad, all I could do to be comfortable was lay flat on the floor. I had a burning pain under the bottom of my ribcage, and starting vomiting dark colored bile. That Monday morning I called my OBGyn looking for a prescription for my heartburn because Tums were not working. They said I needed to be seen and made me an appointment to come in that morning. I should have known something was wrong when I walked in the door because there was a nurse waiting for me when I arrived. They did blood work, checked all my vitals and the next thing I knew my mom was there. I was told I was being sent to the hospital to be seen by a specialist. At that point I didn’t understand what was going on; my baby was only 26 weeks along.

After arriving at the hospital I was given my own room, where I dressed in a gown and was hooked up to many machines. My doctor came in and told me that the pain I was experiencing was not heartburn. My liver was failing, my kidneys were shutting down, my platelet count was low and my blood pressure was extremely high. I was diagnosed with HELLP Syndrome, a severe variant of preeclampsia. Then she said the worst part; the only cure to save my life was to deliver my baby. My heart dropped, and I started to sob. It was too early, I could not deliver yet. I was not even 6 months pregnant; my baby still had 3 1/2 months to develop and grow. My doctor kept saying at 26 weeks there was a good survival rate, but the fact that they were even saying survival rate scared me. Right away they gave me a steroid injection to help develop her lungs. I was told I would get another shot in 24 hours and then deliver 48 hours after that. I was scheduled to have a c-section on Thursday April 10th.

On the morning of April 9th, I was doing much better. The doctors were impressed with my lab results and my blood pressure had gone down. The way things were going I was told I would not have to deliver right away. I had many visitors that day, and even took a walk around the hospital floor. Then things took a turn. The pain and discomfort had started up again and I was scared. Luckily my husband’s cousin was with me and called for the nurse. Then everything happened so fast. There were so many doctors in my room. My mother and sister showed up as they were taking an ultrasound of my liver. I remember one of the doctors telling my mother to call whoever needed to be here because we were having a baby.

My nurse started me on magnesium, I was given an epidural, and then it happened. My daughter, Samantha Ann, was born on Wednesday April 9, 2014 at 9:29pm weighing 1lb 6.5oz and measuring 12in long. She had the littlest cry, it sounded like a tiny kitten’s meow. I remember giving her a kiss, but then I do not remember much after that.

I was put on bed rest and could not go to the NICU to see Samantha. Throughout the day my mom went to visit Samantha and would bring me pictures. She looked so small next to the nurse’s hands. All I wanted to do was hold my baby, but I was stuck in my bed.

That night my husband called. I had not spoken to him in 2 weeks since his last phone call from boot camp. He was excited to tell me everything that he was doing, so I let him talk the first few minutes. Then he asked how I was feeling, because the last letter I had sent him said I was having bad heartburn. I took a deep breath, and told him that he was a dad. He went silent. I told him that I was sick and that they had to deliver the baby. I told him everything was fine and that I did not need him come home. Samantha was healthy and perfect, just really small. I could tell he was in shock because he kept saying, “I’m a dad.” I told him I would send pictures and he said he would try to call again as soon as he could. I promised him I would be strong, I did not let him know I was scared. I hung up the phone and cried.

It was not until Friday afternoon that I was able to see Samantha. She was so tiny. My hands were shaking as I put them in the doors of her isolette to touch her for the first time. My hand was bigger than her whole body. She was very fragile, so she could not be held yet. I cupped one hand around her head, and the other around her legs. That is how I held my daughter for a long time.

Four days after delivery my body was back to normal. All of my tests and scans looked good, and I was discharged. Leaving the hospital without my baby was horrible; it felt like a part of me was missing.

Over the next few months I spent most of my time at the hospital with Samantha. She had good days and bad days. I would sit next to her isolette and read her stories. Once she was big enough I was able to hold her and feed her. It was hard to leave her every night, but I knew she was in good hands with her nurses watching over her.

unnamed2Samantha spent 84 days in the NICU at Crouse Hospital. She had wonderful doctors and nurses that cared for her and helped her grow. She came home weighing 3lbs 14oz. Once home we went into isolation, which was hard for our family and friends because many of them had not met Samantha yet. Nurses frequently came to our house to monitor her and make sure she was gaining enough weight.

Samantha is now a year old, and we are just coming out of isolation. She has grown so much but still has a long way to go.

Thank you for helping us spread awareness for Preeclampsia and HELLP Syndrome. It is hard to believe how something I had never heard of before has changed my life so much.

To help the Utanos spread awareness and education, join the Syracuse Promise Walk on Saturday, May 30, 2015 at http://www.promisewalk.org/Syracuse.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: