In November of 2020, Sarah, a healthy and active 31-year-old, was beginning her final month of pregnancy. She had experienced a healthy pregnancy, and she, her husband, and daughter were looking forward to meeting the new baby. Sarah is active, an avid runner, and everything had been going according to plan.
At 36 weeks she went for a routine doctor visit and everything was normal. The very next night Sarah began to have contractions. She was advised to go to The Elliot and once she was seen she was told that her blood pressure was very high.
Despite feeling fine, after running a series of tests, Sarah’s doctor determined that she had pre-eclampsia, a serious pregnancy complication which is typically characterized by high blood pressure and other symptoms. In addition, Sarah was diagnosed with HELLP syndrome, a life-threatening condition which causes hemolysis (the rupture of red blood cells), elevated liver enzymes, and low platelets.
Sarah was told by her doctor that her liver was shutting down, she did not have time to go through labor, and they would need to perform an emergency c-section. Sarah recalls being admitted under such stressful circumstances, “It was very scary. There was zero indication anything was wrong up to that point and I didn’t have any of the normal risk factors for pre-eclampsia or HELLP syndrome. My nurse was very calm and sweet, checking on me constantly while we waited for the on-call anesthesiologist. Once he arrived, he was amazing too. For other surgeries I’ve had, I was completely under, so I never really talked to the anesthesiologist. This doctor talked a lot, mostly about nothing, which at the time I just thought ‘wow he talks a lot’. It didn’t occur to me at the time that he was talking to distract me from the fact that I was just told my organs were shutting down and my baby needed to be born 4 weeks early! It happened so fast, it was hard to process, so it was the little things like that that meant so much.”
Sarah gave birth to baby Liam, four weeks premature, with her husband by her side. While feeling a sense of relief that her baby was delivered, it was fleeting, as Liam showed signs of respiratory distress. He was quickly taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), was intubated, and put on a feeding tube.
“I obviously had to stay in the operating room,” says Sarah, “They took him up to the NICU right away, so I didn’t even get to hold him, there was no skin-to-skin contact, but my husband was able to be with Liam until they intubated him.”
“My nurse was wonderful. I couldn’t see Liam for 24 hours after having him due to being on magnesium, which helps to lower blood pressure and in severe cases, prevent seizures. My nurse knew everything that happened in the past 24 hours was very traumatic. I felt so sick, so she would call up to the NICU to get updates before I could even ask and brought me up to see him as soon as my doctor gave me the OK.”
Over the next week, Sarah began her recovery on the Maternity Unit, while Liam received specialized care in the NICU. “The nurses were amazing,” says Sarah. “They would bring me up to the NICU to visit any time day or night. I intended on breastfeeding, so I began pumping every 3 hours and they would deliver the milk to the NICU.”
After a couple of days, Liam was well enough to be taken off the feeding tube and Sarah was able to breastfeed. On Thanksgiving Day, Sarah was discharged, and Liam came home to his family two days later.
Today Liam is healthy as can be and Sarah is back to her active lifestyle, all while working as a financial planner, and caring for her two young children. While this is a situation no mother wants to experience, Sarah is grateful for the compassionate care she and Liam received at The Elliot.
“I think I had that ‘mom guilt’ that all moms have at some point,” says Sarah, “especially not being able to feed him, be with him right away, and then going home without him. The labor and delivery, maternity, and NICU nurses were all amazing. They would tell me how I needed to heal and take care of myself before I could take care of him. They reassured me that they would take care of Liam for me until I was well. Leaving him at the hospital and going home without him, even just for a couple days, is not something I would wish on anyone, but I had 100% confidence that he would be taken care of when we couldn’t be there. Knowing that made the situation a lot easier to deal with.”