Pre-Eclampsia Stories - Marcus and Jacinta Covington's Story

It seems ironic that what occurred should have happened to my partner Jacinta. She had been coping marvelously with pregnancy, and often remarked that she had never felt fitter. On Wednesday March 3, Jacinta was ill with vomiting all morning but this cleared by the evening and she was back at work the next day. By late Friday evening she started to feel sick again, and soon started vomiting again. During the whole night she was unable to keep down even a glass of water, so early the next morning we went to consult the doctors at the hospital where Jacinta was booked to have her baby. At this stage her main concern was that the baby could start to suffer from dehydration if she couldn't keep down fluids. At the hospital the medical staff tested Jacinta's blood and urine and decided there were enough worrying signs to admit her as a patient. The general opinion seemed to be that it was probably just a stomach infection. By midday they had managed to get rid of the vomiting with an anti-nausea drug, and Jacinta was starting to feel much better.

That afternoon a doctor came to see Jacinta, with the results of her blood tests. There were a number of things concerning the doctor, Jacinta's urine contained traces of protein, her blood pressure was a little higher than usual, and her platelet levels were a little low. The doctor believed there was a good possibility that Jacinta had Pre-eclampsia. By Sunday morning her latest blood tests showed that this was definitely the case.

Unfortunately, Jacinta's condition was showing signs of quickly deteriorating; although she still felt well, the doctor warned her that they would probably have to induce the baby within ten days. As you can imagine, this came as rather a shock. Jacinta was only 29 weeks. We were told that even if the baby were to be born now it would have about a 95% chance of survival, and if it survived it had the same chance as any other as any other baby of being physically normal.

On Monday evening, after having spent a day in remarkably high spirits, Jacinta's signs were getting worse. By this time it was becoming clear that Jacinta had a rare form of Pre-eclampsia known as HELLP syndrome. By early Tuesday afternoon it was decided that there probably wasn't enough time to go through with an induction, and it would be necessary to perform an emergency caesarean section.

A few hours later the doctors had decided to go ahead with the caesarean. We were told they would administer an epidural, and that I would be able to be present at the birth. But there was more bad news to come. Jacinta's most recent blood test showed that her level of platelets was dropping very rapidly. This would make an epidural impossible meaning she would have to be given a general anaesthetic. Partners are not permitted to be present during surgery involving general anaesthetic, so when Jacinta went into theatre at about 8pm I had to wait outside.

Our son Reuben was born at 8.20 weighing 1210grams. He was able to breathe unassisted at first, though later he had to be put onto a ventilator for a while. He was a strong, alert baby with a head of dark hair and a willful personality. I had no doubt he would prove to be a survivor.

Jacinta was returned to the labour ward at about 10.30. She was awake but, naturally, very woozy. But the rest of the night was not a good one. The doctors feared that the horizontal cut could be slow to heal due to Jacinta's low platelet count, and this proved to be the case. The wound oozed blood all night soaking Jacinta's bandages which had to be changed every 2 hours or less. By late Wednesday morning, Jacinta's platelet level had started to rise but she was still bleeding. The doctors realised that there must be some blood vessels still bleeding internally. This meant Jacinta required a second emergency operation involving reopening the wound, capping the bleeders and stitching her up again.

Once more it would have to be performed under a general anaesthetic. The operation was a success - the bleeding was quickly located and stopped. From then on Jacinta recovered quickly, and was able to return home from the hospital after about ten days. Throughout the next 8-9 weeks much of her energy was taken up in expressing breast milk which was fed to Rueben first through a tube to his stomach and later via a bottle. When Rueben's sucking reflex was strong enough at about 8 weeks, Jacinta was able to breastfeed, which she did with great success for the next 3 years.
None of this developed in the way we planned, but the important thing is that we ended up with a wonderful, healthy child who is a source of great joy for us. As the postscript to this story I should mention that in Jan 1997 we had a second child, a daughter called Natasha. This time Jacinta had a vaginal delivery at term with no complications.