Thirteen years ago on Memorial Day or so, I lost a friend of mine. I don’t actually know all the details of her death, but it started with preeclampsia that did not resolve through delivery of her child. She went through many months of treatment in an ICU in St. Louis before her organs finally shut down.
And so I lost a friend, and so the specter of preeclampsia started to haunt me.
So a week ago when I went to the clinic and they did my blood pressure and it came back “a little high” you can imagine what this did to my stress levels. Urine dipstick indicated protein in my urine. The early signs of preeclampsia. Of course I knew them.
Monday things had not gotten better. I was told to take maternity leave. Now. Yesterday my blood pressure had gotten better, but still not stellar. My Ob/Gyn was consulted. He wanted two hours of observation at the hospital. I went.
The L&D nurses were awesome. The pink gown, plastic bed, and sweat-inducing EFM not so much, but those are the trappings of a hospital, and the bright side is I got to listen to Zoe’s heartbeat for two hours while a blood pressure cuff went off at 15 minute intervals. My blood got drawn and my liver enzymes and platelets came back good (so no HELLP syndrome). I was told to do a 24-hour urine catch, which basically is a chance to pretend you’re Howard Hughes for a day.
At some point I mentioned Nora to my CNM. She put a note in my chart. The L&D nurse assigned to me asked about her, and it was difficult for me to not start crying at that point. Nora was a wonderful, vibrant personality, and like so many (too many) people who have passed away from that point in my life, I miss her. There is an unfairness to her death (as if death or life is ever fair). One that makes it impossible not to take this whole situation very seriously.
“Well,” said the nurse. “You’re unusual. Most women don’t take it seriously.”
“Most women don’t know someone who died from it,” I said.
“It’s really rare, you know,” she said. “I’ve been an L&D nurse for thirteen years, and I’ve never seen anyone actually die from it.”
And there is that. If I’m lucky — and I am doing everything in my power to manufacture my own luck — it won’t progress beyond some high blood pressure and a little protein in my urine. We have “caught it” early.
I’m writing in the hope of relieving some of this stress of knowing. I’m writing because I hope that something useful can come from Nora’s loss. One of the people who was with Nora through her many days in the ICU was another friend of mine named Suz. Suz is gone, too. Too early. Too soon.
I’m taking it seriously, Nora and Suz. I want to be here for my daughter, just as Nora wanted to be here for her son. I’m sure both of them would loved to have met Zoe.
Someday I’ll tell her about you, I promise.