21 June 2018

Why would this mum run two marathons in two weeks?

This April I ran two marathons – Manchester and London. “Why on earth would you do that?” I hear you cry. Well, it’s because I was fundraising for an incredible charity that is doing research and work in a field that I am super-passionate about: Pre-eclampsia.
Here’s my “why”…

In 2008, I was pregnant with my first son - Eoin. I was healthy, active and had just finished my PGCE. My bump had just “popped” and I was finally not feeling sick.  I felt invincible. However, at my routine 28 week ante natal appointment, I had high blood pressure and traces of protein in my urine. The lovely midwife got a second opinion from a senior colleague, but they told me I had to go to hospital immediately because (despite me having no other symptoms) they believed I had pre-eclampsia. I was not impressed to say the least. But I did as I was told.

At Bath RUH, midwives and doctors monitored me closely, giving me aspirin and other BP drugs, and giving the baby steroids to develop his lungs. I was on bed-rest and bored out of my mind, and still not convinced I was ill. I watched other mums go down to the delivery suite and come back with their pink, wrinkly bundles of joy. I got lots of “what’s that healthy-looking girl doing in here while we’re all in labour or are actually ill?” looks. I kept my head down and devoured the books my husband brought me.

At 30 weeks my blood pressure rocketed overnight and I was taken to the delivery suite myself – despite my protestations of, “there’s really no need, I’ve just got a bit of a headache, I’ll be fine”.  I was in spontaneous premature labour and was totally oblivious.  I thought I had trapped wind - these weird waves of pain in my lower back. By the time I realised I was in labour (when I went to the loo and had a show) I was 10cm and the consultant came to see me and realised Eoin was breach and how urgent the situation was. I had to have an emergency c-section to prevent me and my son dying.
I was on the table within 45 minutes of being examined, my head felt like it was about to explode and there were flashing lights and it was cripplingly painful. I was throwing up and couldn't see properly. I barely remember the actual operation. 

After a pretty speedy inverted T incision c-section, Eoin was delivered weighing a dinky 2lb 6.5oz, but he needed resuscitating; and was whisked off to NICU. My blood pressure was dangerously high and I was in ICU for 2 nights. I had to be monitored for a week after on the ward.

I didn't get to see Eoin for 48 hours after the operation. I got to hold him another day after that. Luckily, after an initial few days on C-pap & TPN, and seven weeks in the phenomenal NICU, he was able to come home as a breastfeeding, healthy 4lb 4oz bundle of loveliness. I thank my lucky stars every single day (even on the days where he's a total p.i.t.a now he's 9 - and three quarters, he shouts at me - and knows everything) that we are both here, healthy and happy.

I was incredibly lucky to come out of the operating theatre alive, and that I had been watched so closely by the expert consultants and midwives at the hospital.  If I had ignored them and stayed at home, I would be dead and so would my beautiful boy. I would most likely have suffered an eclamptic fit, by myself at home or in the car. It doesn't bear thinking about.

Sadly, though, this is still a reality that some women and their families have to face and we really need to do more research into why pre-eclampsia effects certain women.  I was not obese, an older mother, or a drinker or unhealthy.  I was teaching, playing rugby (before pregnant!) and I was a sprightly 23 year old. We had no family history of it.

I had no symptoms.  If I had not gone to my antenatal appointments, I dread to think what could have happened. There is still no solid reason why women are suffering from pre-eclampsia, and research is under-funded, despite 1000 babies dying because of it in the UK every year, and one woman dies every 6 minutes from pre-eclampsia worldwide. Shocking.

So did I have pre-eclampsia again with baby number 2? Nope. Finn was Pre-E free! I was monitored heavily throughout my second pregnancy at 29 years old, and the consultant team prescribed me small doses of aspirin, but I did not develop any symptoms or signs of pre-eclampsia. 

Finally, if you’ve read this and are pregnant, I implore you to listen to your midwife, but also your intuition. If you don’t feel right, seek medical advice. If you’ve already popped your sprog out (congrats btw! Woop woop!) please spread the word about pre-eclampsia and make your pregnant friends aware of how important it is to go to their antenatal appointments. I would get so annoyed at being asked to piss in a pot (haven’t they designed a better contraption for us yet?! Come on, it’s the 21st century…) and irritated by the need to take my blood pressure “just one more time” but I have never been so grateful for their persistence. 

I really hope that with better funding and more research pre-eclampsia can be prevented in the future; preferably in our lifetimes. Action on Pre-eclampsia are looking for runners for next year’s London Marathon 2019 and I can’t recommend them enough. If you miss out on a ballot spot, get in touch with them here.

Written by Siobhan @thissisterscribes 


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