Will Somebody Please HELLP Me?!?!

Tonight I present to you an amazing story of survival and hope from Miranda Sherman, who reminds us that children are a true gift from God, even if mothers have to go through hell to have them.

I was eighteen when I found out I was expecting a baby. The doctor said I was due at the end of September. I was pretty nervous, but I knew it would all work out. When I was about six months pregnant, I started feeling miserable. When I went to my obstetrician (OB) appointments, I would tell her my aches and pains. I was having severe backaches and mind-splitting migraines. My OB explained to me that this was typical during pregnancy. I accepted her answer and went about my day. What would I know, she’s the doctor.

As the weeks wore on, I was getting worse. I thought to myself, “This can’t possibly be normal. Women wouldn’t keep having babies if this was normal.” My doctor kept telling me that this was normal and to just take it easy. She told me to take warm relaxing baths, use a heating pad and take plenty of naps. I followed her orders, and there was still no relief. I was very frustrated and felt like no one would listen to me.

One night around 11 p.m., I was in such excruciating pain I decided to go to the ER. As I walked into the birthing center, everyone was real polite. I had to put on the gown and belly sleeve, was hooked up to a monitor and given a full exam. I was nervous and in a lot of pain. I had to give a urine sample. I was starting to think that whatever was wrong would be taken care of and I would start to feel better.

At about 2:30 a.m., the doctor came in and prescribed a pain reliever. I thought to myself, “Yea! About time, I am finally going to be feeling better.” Little did I know it was only just beginning!

After a week I had run out of medication and was still in a lot of pain; it had not made any difference. I made an appointment with my OB. While I was there I was given the normal exam, had to give a urine sample, and my blood pressure was taken. I explained everything all over again, my pains, aches and the whole situation.

My OB signed me up for physical therapy for pregnant women. I asked if this was normal, and she said yes; the reason for the back pain is because my back was not used to supporting all the weight of the baby. I accepted her answer and thought to myself, “This can’t be right. Something is wrong! No one is listening to me!” When I told her this and expressed my feelings, she gave me this long, drawn-out explanation and lecture all boiling down to a lot of crap. In the end I left feeling like she had basically told me to shut up, suck it up and quit acting like a wimp! I was FED UP! Even my friends and family were beginning to think that I was a wimp and that I was over exaggerating things.

As I was riding the bus home from the clinic, things took a turn for the worse. I was in pain, a lot of pain! I felt like I was going into labor. When I got home, I fell on the couch crying, so frustrated that I was going through this and no one was here to listen or help! I knew something was wrong, and I was backed against the wall with nowhere to go. I felt so alone and scared!

My friend brought me to my room and calmed me down. At about 5:30 p.m. my cousin came to visit. She gave me an amazing back massage, and I felt a lot better! The pain was gone. I was relaxed; it was very comforting. Feeling so good, I decided to take a nap.

When I woke up, the pain was back. My friend asked if I wanted to take a bath, but I was way to sore to even move. The doctor said if the pain gets bad, lay down, put my feet up and take a nap. My friends had suggested this and to see how I felt later. Nope, I was sick of this and needed to go NOW!! I was on a mission! I was going back to the hospital, and I wasn’t leaving until they figured something out!

I got a ride to the hospital. My friend decided to stay home; seriously, people were really beginning to think I was full of it and it was all in my head. No one came with me. I got a ride to the hospital and was left after I checked in. As I walked into the birthing center, all the staff looked at me like, “Oh great, it’s her again. The baby is back.” I was infuriated!

They did the same procedure as last time; made me give a urine sample, hooked me up to monitors and blood pressure cuff,  and gave me another exam. Then, I noticed things started to get a little weird. This time lab came and drew a blood sample. I just figured maybe they were going to try testing for something else. Then nurses and doctors started moving a little faster, people were popping in and out constantly checking different things, nurses were sweating and moving fast. No one could answer any of my questions or explain what was going on. I was starting to get very stressed out!

When the nurses came in to hook up an IV, I knew something was wrong, something was happening, and I needed answers! It took five or six tries. I lost count after four. If you’ve had an IV you know this is not pleasant at all; it’s pretty painful, especially if you are poked over and over. Then the nurse told me to call home. I told her it was OK, I could tell them everything later or tomorrow when I get home. Then she looked at me and very rudely and harshly said, “Call them NOW! You are going to have the baby!” I kept saying over and over, “It’s too early. I’m not due yet.”

I called my friends and family and told them to come to the hospital because I was having the baby! As I said the words, I started to bawl my eyes out! I was so frustrated that all this time I had been telling them that something was wrong, and nobody would listen to me.

When my dad got there, things took a turn for the worse. He was sitting next to me trying to calm me down. I said I was nauseous. I told the nurse, and she handed me a bed pan to throw up in. I set it aside because I felt like this my whole pregnancy and never threw up. All of a sudden I started vomiting, and it was bad! It was very forceful and projectile. I felt like I should have been filming the exorcism (I know gruesome, but hey, it happened.) The nurses suddenly pushed everyone to the side.  All of a sudden I was in an operating room. I still had NO CLUE what was going on and what was wrong with me.

In July 2000 at 12:16 a.m., I gave birth by c-section to a tiny daughter, Marissa Kym. She was a preemie, born at 28 weeks gestation and weighing a mere two pounds, five ounces and just 15 inches long. She was immediately taken to the NICU.

After the surgery, they gave me one blood transfusion and two platelet transfusions. It turns out I almost died. My OB said if I would have laid back down and took another nap, I probably would not be here today. She told me my body had shut down and I went into shock, which caused the vomiting and incoherence.

Out of this whole experience I have learned two things:

1. Always trust your instinct no matter what anyone says.

2. I truly do have a miracle baby, a real gift from God!

Now that you have read all this, I am sure you are wondering what the heck is HELLP Syndrome? HELLP Syndrome is the medical term for one of the most serious complications of pre-eclampsia,  a combined liver and blood clotting disorder.

H – stands for hemolysis, breaking down of red blood cells
EL – stands for elevated liver enzymes in the blood, which causes liver damage
LP – stands for low platelet count, needed for blood clotting

HELLP Syndrome is life-threatening. As a result of sometimes being misdiagnosed as gastritis, acute hepatitis, disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) and gall bladder disease, the mother does not receive the right treatment.

A platelet count appears to be the most reliable indicator of the presence of HELLP syndrome. The syndrome has been considered a variant of pre-eclampsia, but can occur on its own or in association with pre-eclampsia. Pregnancy-induced hypertension, pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome are related and overlap in their presentations.

HELLP Syndrome symptoms include high blood pressure; protein in the urine; swelling in the face, feet and hands; pain below the ribs, known as epigastric pain; severe headache; vomiting or feeling of nausea; feeling tired; visual disturbances; and bleeding. If you notice any of these symptoms, notify your doctor immediately. Not all symptoms have to be present, but these symptoms are most often reported. The most common reasons for the mother’s death are liver rupture or stroke. These can be prevented if it’s caught in time. If you or someone you know has any of these symptoms, please see a doctor immediately.

The only known treatment for women with HELLP Syndrome is delivery, regardless of how far along in the pregnancy the mother is. The cause of HELLP Syndrome is unknown. Any pregnant woman can get this illness.


  • Five to seven percent of all pregnant women in the U.S. develop pre-eclampsia
  • Between two and 12 percent go on to suffer from HELLP Syndrome
  • Estimates are that HELLP Syndrome occurs in one out of 150 live births, with a mortality rate of 3.5 percent

New information shows because no cause for HELLP syndrome is known yet, doctors aren’t able to pinpoint who will develop the condition.

It seems that any pregnant woman is at risk for developing HELLP syndrome, though there are a few factors that may increase your risk including being less than 20 or more than 35 years old; being pregnant for the first time; having high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia or eclampsia during your pregnancy; or having HELLP syndrome, pre-eclampsia, or eclampsia during a previous pregnancy.

The most common HELLP Syndrome effects on the baby include being small for their gestational age/low birth weight. At birth, the baby may be over sedated because of medications given to both the mother and child. The child may have hypermagnesemia because of magnesium sulfate treatments given to the mother. Surfactant is usually given to the mother, which will help baby’s lungs mature faster. Other than that, the baby is usually given morphine or other relaxers so the baby does not pull out any tubes.

HELLP Syndrome has a 29 percent chance of re-occurrence. Studies show you are 50 percent more likely to have some other pregnancy complication including but not limited to diabetes, preterm labor, heavy weight gain, high blood pressure and severe morning sickness.

When I was expecting my second child , the doctor had me do several things to make sure things went smoothly including make sure my OB was aware of my past; make sure my OB has dealt with HELLP before; have my weight, blood pressure and urine checked each visit; make sure they will be watching my platelet levels; and talk with the doctor about preventive measures. Then she put me on a higher dose of pre-natal vitamins and a low dose (80mg) of children enteric aspirin once a day, called aspirin therapy.

There is not a lot of information out there about HELLP Syndrome and how serious it is. They do not write about it in pregnancy books or magazines. I have done a lot of research on HELLP and have talked to a lot of women who have had HELLP and have heard a lot of stories. Because this story and experience has had a major role in who I am today and the bond I have with my daughter I felt I should share my story with you.   

For more information about HELLP Syndrome, visit  http://www.hellp_syndrome.tripod.com/.

About Miranda Sherman

Miranda Sherman is a stay-at-home mom of four and lives in Minnesota. Her children range in age from nine months to 10 years old. She promotes breastfeeding and volunteers in the community and schools. Miranda blogs about current events, her thoughts and opinions, her family and all the craziness that comes with a large family. She shares lots of pictures, videos, homemade recipes, parenting advice, her love for books and reading, book reviews and more.

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