Pre-Eclampsia Stories

Wendy and Mark Todd's Story

In 1998 we discovered I was expecting our baby. He had taken close on a year to conceive as I had polycystic ovarian syndrome. I was 37.

Our first scan barely showed a picture but our second scan at 13 weeks, just before Christmas showed our baby boy and was a wonderful gift. We were so happy. Our next scan at 19 weeks was a different story. Just at the end of the scan the doctor who had been explaining what he was seeing, went quiet. I asked if something was wrong and he said it may be. He finished the scan and asked us to sit down at his desk. He explained that our little boy didn't have a fully formed right hand and advised us of our options. He suggested we go home and think about how we wanted to proceed and if we wished to have amniocentesis to come back later that afternoon. If there was a chromosome deficiency we would have to decide whether to continue with the pregnancy. We decided to go ahead with the amniocentesis, have a second opinion and made an appointment to see a geneticist. There were no chromosome problems and the geneticist believed that it was an isolated occurrence with no explanation for it happening. We came to terms with our little boy's disability and set about working out how we could help him. We made an appointment with the Head of the Limb Deficiency Department at the Royal Children's Hospital and found him to be a warm, caring man who helped us to be very positive about our little boy. He suggested that we come back at about 28 weeks when a scan would reveal more and he could advise us better. An appointment was made for when I was about 30 weeks.

Apart from the problem with our baby's hand, the rest of the pregnancy was 'normal'. My blood pressure and urine were fine. I had a scan at 28 weeks which was the Wednesday just before Easter. Our little boy wasn't moving much but was thought to be asleep. We were going to Camden , just outside of Sydney for the holiday. We were travelling by car and my feet swelled up enormously. I assumed that it was from the drive and tried to keep my legs up as much as possible. On Easter Sunday I had dreadful pains which I likened to contractions, about 10 minutes apart, but wondered in my naiveté if it was something I'd eaten, being away from home. I thought it couldn't be the baby as we'd just had a scan.

On Easter Monday we were to travel to Canberra . I felt allot better but in the car it felt as though our baby was pulling away from me. That night I couldn't lie down and was in allot of pain. First thing on the Tuesday morning I rang my obstetrician in Melbourne . He said it sounded as though I was going into labour and that I had to get some Ventolin tablets which would mean seeing a doctor. We looked up the hotel directory to see where the closest one was. We were to meet friends that morning and rang them to say that I had to see a doctor. They met us and came with us. The doctor said that it looked like I had pre-eclampsia and to go to the hospital at once, which we did.

The nurses tried to get a heartbeat on the CTG but couldn't. They said that sometimes babies hide and that we would have to wait for an ultrasound. Mark went to move the car as he was on an hour park. Whilst he was gone the doctor came to do the ultrasound. They asked me if I wished to wait until Mark returned, but I said "no". The doctor said "I'm sorry to tell you Mrs Todd but there is no heart beat". As he said this I felt my precious little boy's soul get sucked right out of me and I sobbed. Mark walked in just after this and we held each other crying. There was a wonderful midwife there, who helped to prepare me for delivering my little boy and what I could expect. The hospital contacted my obstetrician and I asked if I could come home to deliver Jarrod. It was decided that it would be OK and that we were to contact the obstetrician the next morning.

It was a surreal drive home but there was a sense of safety at arriving home. Strangely I was able to sleep. We rang the obstetrician's rooms on that Wednesday morning and were advised that he would deliver our little boy the next day, which happened to be my birthday. I said I could not manage another day with my dead little boy's body inside me.

It was thought that Jarrod had died on Easter Sunday and this was Wednesday. The wonderful midwife in Canberra had advised me that once a baby has died, his skin starts to peel and I just didn't want him to deteriorate any more. The obstetrician rang us back and said to come into the hospital straight away and he would be there between surgeries.

Parking was an issue so I said to Mark that I would go up to the Maternity Ward whilst he found a park. I wasn't sure where in the Maternity Ward to go and ended up knocking on the door where we had been for our booking in meeting. I broke down at this point saying "I'm Wendy Todd and my baby's dead." The midwife took me into the birthing ward and Mark was soon with me. All the midwifes were very kind. I was induced but my veins had started collapsing and at around 6.30pm my legs started to jerk. The midwife was concerned that I was going to have a fit and said that I should have an epidural which should help.

My blood pressure was 210/180. The doctor came and gave me the epidural which was excruciating.

At 11.15pm on 7 April, 1999, at 29 weeks, our precious Jarrod was born.

His little body was not in as bad a condition as I had thought it may have been and his hand wasn't nearly as bad as we had thought. We know he would have managed quite well. We held him through the night and in the morning the director from the funeral home came and took him. I am so glad that we had this time with him, even though I know his soul had already gone.

On the Saturday I experienced pain around my lungs and said it felt as though my lung was collapsing, although I'd had no experience of such a thing. The nurses and physiotherapist who came to see me for pelvic floor exercises were dismissive of it and so I thought that I must have pulled a muscle from crying so much. The midwife who had delivered Jarrod was an angel and sat with me through the Saturday night as I cried my heart out. On Sunday I went home.

A nurse came to see me on Monday and again was dismissive of my pain around my lungs. I went to see a physiotherapist as I thought I must have done some damage with all the crying. I was having more and more trouble breathing and that night couldn't lie down. The next morning we went to see my GP. He asked if I had any pain in my legs and I said that my left leg had felt weak. He told Mark to get me straight to hospital and he would organise everything from his rooms. He was the only medico who listened to me and I thank God he did.

I was to report to medical imaging for an x-ray and lung test. I went in by myself whilst Mark found a park. I had to join a queue and whilst waiting saw that poster with the baby in the mother's stomach saying 'Mummy, please tell them I'm in here." With that I broke down and collapsed. They put me on oxygen and in a wheel chair. I couldn't even do the lung test and through x-ray and ultra-sound it was discovered that my lung had collapsed; I had pneumonia and a pulmonary embolus, which had started as a clot in my left leg. If it wasn't for my GP, I am told that it was only a matter of hours before the blood clot would have gone to my brain and I would have died.

I spent two weeks in hospital and six months on warfarin.

A while after returning home I tried to make sense of what had happened to Jarrod and me. No-one had given me an explanation. I contacted SANDS and we went to one meeting but found that so distressing hearing of these other poor people who had lost their babies. The lady taking the group found out about AAPEC for me and so began the process of working out what had happened. The medical advisor from AAPEC helped to put it in perspective. I had experienced HELLP syndrome. I had gone to two psychologists who had been of minimal help. I asked my GP where I should go for help as I was overwhelmed with grief. He spoke to the AAPEC medical advisor to discuss who would be a good person for me to see. He suggested a Psychologist at the Royal Women's Hospital who was a wonderful support.

As time was against me for having children, we took the big leap of trying again. I was terrified and again the psychologist was a wonderful support all through the pregnancy. I had a different obstetrician this time, suggested by the AAPEC medical advisor, who monitored me very closely.

They were going to put me on heparin but before this went ahead it was discovered that I had gestational diabetes which saw me on insulin from about 10 weeks, so the doctors thought I could do without the heparin and I took half an aspirin each day.

No pre-eclampsia this time and at 38 weeks I was induced and my darling Jason was born on 20 April, 2001, completely healthy.

Jason is now four and I treasure all our times together. I am truly blessed to have him. I am so grateful for the help I was given after Jarrod died and throughout my pregnancy with Jason.