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Asheville, North Carolina Family Makes A Difference for Moms and Babies

June 1, 2015

IMG_7778 Preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome survivor Melissa Merrill is determined to help make sure no moms suffer the feeling of being alone after the delivery of a premature baby because of preeclampsia. This year, she and her husband are the 2015 Asheville, NC Promise Walk for Preeclampsia Mission Family.

On Mother’s Day 2012, my husband and I found out that we were expecting our first child. We had never been so scared yet so excited in our lives. Over the weeks, our excitement only grew as we got to experience hearing the baby’s heartbeat for the first time, getting our first ultrasound and then eventually finding out the gender. We were counting the days until we would get to meet our sweet boy who was due January 14th, 2013.

Despite my yucky but typical pregnancy symptoms, the baby and I were both healthy and doing wonderful. Around the beginning of October, I had gone to the doctor for a routine check-up and everything was looking perfect. However, the very next morning things started to change. I had woken up with some swelling in my fingers and over the next few days I started swelling in my wrists, arms, feet, knees, legs, and then my face.

At first, everyone that I talked to told me it was normal to swell during pregnancy, so I dismissed it. After a couple of weeks, I started to worry and began doing some research. That is when I came across an article on Preeclampsia, something I had barely even heard of. I started looking at the symptoms and noticed that I had been having a few of them. On top of the swelling, I had been having dull headaches that would last all day. I had also been seeing “spots”. Neither of which I had been worried about until that moment.

After researching that evening, I decided to check my BP immediately. It was 177/117. That’s when my mother-in-law decided to take me straight to the ER. To be honest, other than the extreme swelling I didn’t really feel as “sick” as I later found out that I was, but at the same time my gut instinct was telling me that something was very wrong. As soon as I got to the hospital they sent me up to Labor and Delivery and admitted me right away. I called my husband who was working 11 hours away from home, to let him know what was happening. He left work immediately and drove through the night to get to me.

That night after being hooked up to IV blood pressure medication and magnesium sulfate to help prevent a stroke or seizure, I received my first steroid shot to help speed up the baby’s lung growth. My husband finally made it to me in the morning and he didn’t leave my side the entire time. That’s when we were told that I could last anywhere from three days to three weeks depending on if my condition worsened.

Once my 24 hour urine collection came back on the second evening, I finally had a definitive diagnosis of severe preeclampsia. My kidneys were starting to fail, so on that night I got my second round of steroids for the baby’s lungs. Through the next day, they monitored my blood pressure, proteinuria, kidney function, liver enzymes and blood platelets and continuously weighed my health against the baby’s. I don’t remember much but I remember being so scared. I had no clue what was going on and I was so out of it due to the magnesium. One thing I do remember is asking one of the doctors to please be honest with me and to tell me how soon they thought I would deliver… would it be three weeks or three days? I will never forget that doctor as she pulled up a chair next to my bed and held my hand as I cried when she told me that I would probably only make it three days.

At that point, being that my due date was still 12 weeks away, the hospital had arranged for a tour of the NICU for my husband and I, but we never made it. On top of the severe preeclampsia, I ended up developing HELLP syndrome and by day three, just as the doctors had predicted, my liver was beginning to fail. It was then too dangerous for me to remain pregnant.

I remember a flood of doctors coming into the room, telling me that I was too sick and that they needed to do an emergency c-section, as they prepped me for surgery. I think that was the scariest moment for me. There was no way to prepare myself for the things that were unfolding.

On October 26th 2012, at 7:16pm Bryson Eli was born via emergency c-section at 28 weeks gestation, weighing 1lb 14oz.

Bryson was immediately rushed to the NICU and I was sent to the Mother Baby Unit to be monitored. I was kept on magnesium sulfate for another 24 hours and by the end of those 24 hours, I was begging the nurses to take me off of it because it made me feel so horrible. After those initial 24-48 hours, my condition began to stabilize. I was put on oral blood pressure medication and of course pain medication, which mostly made me sleep. It took three days for me to gain the strength to make it to the NICU to see my son for the first time and on the fourth day, I was showing enough improvement to be discharged. I was so happy to be going home, but devastated to be leaving my son behind.

IMG_7781Bryson was given 90% chance of survival but due to the Preeclampsia he had been growth restricted in my womb. At 1lb 14oz, he was in the 10th percentile for his gestation. He suffered from severely low birth weight, apnea of prematurity, risk for IVH, Stage 2 ROP, PDA, sepsis and one NEC scare among other typical preemie issues. It was a long road and he faced almost insurmountable obstacles, but each and every day he grew stronger and stronger and after 72 long days, he was finally discharged from the NICU.

Today, I am thankful to report that Bryson is a happy, healthy and thriving two year old. I have also made a full recovery with no lasting physical issues, but Preeclampsia has mentally and emotionally turned my world upside down. Never in a million years would I have ever thought our little family would go through something like this, and now it is so important for me to do my part to bring awareness of this devastating disease, in hopes that someday we can find a cure so that other families do not have to go through it as well.

You can support the Asheville walk at http://www.promisewalk.org/Asheville on Saturday, June 14, 2015.

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