As Preeclampsia Awareness Month comes to a close, I want to share a blog post I wrote on 2/28/2011 that provides a better description of my former patient’s birth that resulted in her amazing son. If nothing else, please pay attention to what her blood pressures were and how the resident physicians had a false sense of security that almost led to her baby’s death.
I was greeted by those words during a patient’s recent postpartum exam and was both gratified and humbled. A potential disaster was avoided and her pregnancy had a happy ending.
Katina* (name changed) had registered for prenatal care early so when her blood pressure was a little “different” at 32 weeks, the change was duly noted. She wasn’t complaining of a headache, her feet weren’t swollen but this was her first pregnancy which placed her at an increased risk of developing pre-eclampsia. A blood pressure of 120/82 would seem normal to most people but in Katina’s case it wasn’t. She was sent to the hospital and then discharged home with instructions to monitor her blood pressure daily and I asked her to return in one week for closer scrutiny.
Upon Katina’s return, her blood pressure was 140/90 so off she went to the hospital’s labor and delivery triage department for further evaluation. Upon her arrival, her blood pressure appeared to have improved. The resident physicians on duty made snide remarks, insinuating that she was referred inappropriately. As she was about to be discharged, the baby’s heartbeat dropped precipitously. Before Katina could blink, a team of physicians and nurses descended upon her with full force. They shoved papers in her face requesting a signature for an emergency c/section and informed her that it was possible she could die as well as her baby. Her blood pressure had escalated through the roof and her heart raced dramatically. She was quickly put to sleep, a “stat” c. section was done, and her baby was born alive. For the next four days, the hospital staff had difficulty controlling her blood pressure and her heart continued to pound at rates above 150 beats per minute. It was one of the most harrowing experiences of her life however, in the end, both mother and baby were discharged home and are now fine. Katina experienced what we in medicine call a “diagnostic save.” A life was saved because the proper diagnosis was made in a timely manner. How often does that happen? Not often enough. If you can “see it” then you can treat it. Pregnant moms must be empowered to help their healthcare providers “see” the problem before it spins out of control.