• Kristina Mulligan

NICU & ICU: Finding the Balance

Babies can be born prematurely for all kinds of different reasons.

I was diagnosed with preeclampsia in my 27th week of pregnancy which caused Flynn’s early delivery. Preeclampsia, also referred to as toxemia, is a highly dangerous pregnancy complication that is caused by high blood pressure and causes damage to another organ system, most commonly the liver and/or kidneys. This is the cause for about 15% of preterm births.

In some cases, like mine, there can be no symptoms, but some women experience sudden swelling of the hands and feet, blurred vision, headache, nausea, or weight gain (caused by fluid buildup). It is a rare condition, effecting about 200,000 mothers per year, which is about 2-8% of pregnancies.

Preeclampsia does require a diagnosis by a doctor, who will look for protein in the urine and, of course, high blood pressure. If left untreated, it can lead to serious, sometimes deadly, complications for both mother and baby. This is one reason why proper prenatal care is so important! With preeclampsia, the most effective treatment is delivery of the baby, but even after delivering the baby, it can still take a while to recover. In my case, a very long time.

After Flynn was delivered, I remained in the hospital for another week before going home as my blood pressure was being managed. Just two days after discharge, I was rushed back to the hospital in the middle of the night. Fewer than 1% of women with preeclampsia suffer from stroke. I was one of them. My incident was both ischemic (clot) and hemorrhagic (bleed). I ended up back in the hospital, the ICU, for another ten days. For our whole family, this was an extremely difficult time balancing the ICU and NICU. And this was another period of time that I lost in Flynn’s first weeks.

As an update: I have mostly recovered from my stroke with only deficits in memory function due to damage from the bleed. I had the clot in my temporal lobe for a little over a year until it finally dissolved thanks to injectable blood thinners.

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