For any of you who are fans of the BBC show, “Call the Midwife”, you will know what the show is all about. For those of you who don’t, I’ll give you a little synopsis. The gist of the show is following a group of British midwives around to different patients as they go through the treatment of pregnant women in their community. All kinds of storylines are explored, and the program is very realistic.
One of the things they covered in a recent season was a pregnant woman who developed a dangerous condition called preeclampsia, a condition that includes high blood pressure and serious risks to the mother and the child. If you follow Downton Abby, Sybil died of preeclampsia after her baby was born.
Though both Downton Abby and Call the Midwife are just television shows, the storylines are very realistic.
With this in mind, let me share an experience that our family went through recently. Our daughter, Michelle, was expecting her fifth child. She has had four very normal pregnancies with uneventful deliveries and no surprises. This fifth pregnancy has been different.
On Monday of last week our daughter was in her fifth day of a steady headache. Nothing she could do would help it go away so she became concerned. She is about six weeks from delivery, but the headache led her back to both Call the Midwife and Downton Abby, where one of the characters developed preeclampsia and died. Preeclampsia happens when the placenta begins to separate from the wall of the uterus with the most recognizable side effect is abnormally high blood pressure.
Michelle’s husband is a pharmacist for Walgreens in New Mexico, so she drove there to have her blood pressure checked. She was somewhat shocked to find that her blood pressure was something like 220/180, dangerously high for a pregnant woman.
She then drove straight to the hospital where she was admitted. Because her unborn child was still six weeks from his due date she was given a steroid shot that helps the unborn fetus’s lungs develop. The next thing they did was to arrange for her to be transferred by life flight to a hospital where they could better care for her premature child to be born, as well as a hospital with a specialist who would be able to treat what was diagnosed as preeclampsia.
Apparently the best way to deal with the perils of preeclampsia is to deliver the baby. One day after her admission to the specialist hospital, after she had been given a second steroid shot, her 3lb 14 oz baby boy was born by caesarian section.
Just like in the movies, a few hours after the baby was born our daughter developed a condition they call HELLP, which includes severe blood loss, out of control blood pressure and a number of other life threatening side effects including stroke, renal failure, blindness and a one in a hundred chance of death. It has been a day since our daughter crashed and she is doing much better.
Unlike the movies, which often like to rid themselves of a character for the dramatic effect, our daughter will write her own ending many decades from now.
I am somewhat grateful that a silly television program was at least partly responsible for our daughter’s decision to be proactive with what her body was doing. She is not completely out of the woods right now, but she is at least allowed to hold her baby boy, something she had been denied for the first two days after his birth. I have come to realize that our lives are fraught with all kinds of peril, many we have never heard of and some like preeclampsia, that the movies have exposed us to. I don’t generally believe in the dramatics of Hollywood, but I am drawn to those series where the stories have some basis in fact. Perhaps I can look forward to a terminator ending to my life where I, with the help of a friendly terminator, can save the world. Until then, I plan on continuing as a big fan of Call the Midwife!