Over a cup of coffee, I recently met 24 year-old Catherine Njoki. Catherine survived preeclampsia –a pregnancy-related complication that can be fatal. I have shared other women’s experiences with preeclampsia before, which you can catch up with here. I’m sure over the last few months, you’ve learned about moms who have lost their lives, or lost their babies -or both have died, due to pregnancy-related conditions. Preeclampsia is one such cause, and here at Mummy Tales, we will continue doing our best to increase awareness about it. So today, I bring you Catherine’s story, which she narrated to me.
“When I found out I was pregnant in November 2015, it was a welcome surprise. I was working and in a stable relationship, and I felt ready to take up the responsibility that lay ahead.
I started my antenatal clinics at eight weeks. I was so excited about the pregnancy and I was even more thrilled to discover that my baby’s due date was on my birthday. What double blessings!
At five months pregnant, I resigned from my job as I felt I needed to prepare for my baby as well as focus on myself. I was enjoying my pregnancy and I loved feeling the baby’s kicks and shopping for clothes, shawls, blankets, socks and such items. With more time on my hands, I took time to shop around for a hospital where I would deliver.
Swollen Wrists and Feet
The first alarm was when one day, during a regular ANC visit, the doctor told me that my urine levels appeared ‘unusual’, before putting me on medication. He never really explained to me what the problem was, but with the medication, I knew I was sorted.
Not too long after, I noticed that my wrists were swollen, and so were my feet. Concerned, I asked people around me about it, but they told me that swelling in pregnancy was normal, no big deal. I felt reassured.
One night though, I remember experiencing trouble trying to sleep because of a sharp pain I would feel in my chest with each breathe I took. That day had been a busy one for me, spent running errands, so I assumed it was fatigue. But the pain was so bad, I couldn’t sleep. I kept tossing and turning but it wouldn’t subside. I was living with my sister, but I didn’t want to wake her up and alarm her because I thought that it was something I could handle. I decided to take a shower in the hope that I would feel more refreshed. But that didn’t work. The following morning at 6am sharp, I was at the neighborhood clinic. I just wanted them to give me painkillers.
Sudden Weight Gain
At the clinic, the first thing that the nurse did was check my weight. But her reaction made me know things were bad.
“You were here only two days ago. Your weight then was 66kg but now you are at 80kg!” she exclaimed. I could see the confused look on her face. I didn’t even know I had added that much weight!
Next, she took my blood pressure. She didn’t even say a word when she saw the reading, but instead rushed to the doctor’s office. The doctor came and I remember him checking my pressure and swallowing a huge chunk of saliva before asking me: “How did you get here?”
I told him I had come all by myself, in a matatu. By that time, my chest was on fire and I kept begging him for painkillers. All I remember him saying was that I needed to be admitted immediately. He then gave me some medication and I was taken to the ward.
I was 31 weeks pregnant at that time.
Confused by the turn of events, I called my boyfriend and my parents and updated them. I then slept, the chest pain having subsided. When I woke up, I found my family by my bedside. All remained well, until after I ate my evening meal, when I started feeling dizzy and vomited. The pain in my chest came back 10 times worse than before. I was running out of breath, in between frantic screams. I remember the environment suddenly turning chaotic with nurses running in and out of my room, taking my blood pressure, all the while my mom trying to calm me down.
Time to Deliver the Baby
No sooner, the doctor announced that I had to undergo a caesarean section immediately. I scoffed at him. I mean, how? Just yesterday I had been happy, shopping for my baby, and now he was telling me that I needed to deliver? I was only 31 weeks pregnant for crying out loud! My baby was nowhere near due!
Besides, I was terrified of surgery, so I protested, telling the doctor I wasn’t ready. I also wanted to go to a much bigger hospital as I could not imagine giving birth in a small neighborhood hospital. Furthermore, my boyfriend, a medical doctor, hadn’t arrived and I really wanted him there with me.
Related: Preeclampsia: All you Need to Know
I tried using all manner of delay tactics but at some point, the doctor firmly said that I if I insisted on not having the caesarean section done there and then, I would have to sign a statement absolving the hospital of any blame. My mother then knocked sense into me and told me that I was going to die if I didn’t listen to the doctor. Seeing her harshness about it terrified me and I immediately agreed to the surgery. And by God’s grace, just as I was being wheeled into theatre, my boyfriend arrived…
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