I had pre-eclampsia and I survived narrowly

Barbara Among during an interview. Photo by by Jalira Namyalo

On February 20, 2016, Barbara Among was six months and three weeks pregnant. That day, she felt rather tired and decided to go to the nearby clinic to check her pressure.

At the clinic, results showed that her blood pressure was 165/120, prompting the nurse to advise her to take a boda boda or any fast means of transport to the hospital, but Among did not take medical worker seriously, since she only felt tired. Doctors say the normal blood pressure should read 120/80.

“I took a taxi to the hospital. On reaching the hospital, I gave the midwife the results from the clinic. She was alarmed and quickly measured my blood pressure again, this time; it had reached 200/133,” Among, a journalist and a mother of two recalls.

Among narrates that her blood pressure shocked the midwife. “I should have burst, drop dead. I was given an injection that sent me to deep sleep and given medication. I woke up at midnight and was told the blood pressure was dropping.”
She says that upon request, she was allowed to go back home and return the following day but two hours later, she felt like her head was going to burst, could not walk and was vomiting.

Among says that she was rushed back to Kampala Independent Hospital in a terrible condition. She was in such a bad state that her loved ones wanted the baby taken out immediately to save her life, however the gynaecologist asked for a chance to manage the situation.

“The following morning, l was swollen to over 95kg from 75kg, l could not see. And for three days, I was put on special medication, in isolation, with minimal light, no guests. My blood pressure dropped to 138/90. I was excited, ready to keep my baby for another six weeks. But this was not to be,” Among says.
According to Among, the scan which was done in the morning showed that the high blood pressure had drained all the fluid around the baby and it was going to die any minute.

“I cried thinking I was going to lose my baby. Doctors told me not to cry because it would raise the blood pressure and if it did, they could not operate me. The doctor added that failure to operate me, would mean we would both die. I was between a rock and a hard place.

“They had to perform an emergency C-section. But my heart was too weak to handle full anaesthesia. They brought in two more doctors, the midwives and paediatrician. I could hear and partly see everything despite the many stories to distract me. As soon as the baby was pulled out, I felt tired and all I recall was doctors shocking my heart,” she says.
“I survived because I was in the hands of a very experienced gynaecologist. I temporarily lost my memory after this. My baby is God's miracle,” adds Among who spent close to six hours in the theatre.
She explains that after the surgery to remove her baby, the baby was kept in an incubator to help her grow well and she spent one month and two weeks more in the hospital.

Among says that after the hospital she had to use the kangaroo method to help her heart learn to beat from the mother.
“Like any other born premature baby, she was a delicate baby and hard to take care of so that she can grow. But by following doctors’ advice and directions, I managed to raise her. Miracle is now a normal and brilliant girl,” Among reveals.

Among says that she did not have a history of preeclampsia and high blood pressure except the last minute one she got with her first child, which however disappeared after birth.

She explains that a week before, her feet had started swelling and pressure had gone high. Her gynecologist had advised her to go to the near clinic whenever she felt weak and dizzy which she had done.

Dean Muhwezi, a physician at New Hope Medical Center in Lusanja- Kiteezi explains that preeclampsia is a condition affecting pregnant women characterised by increased blood pressure and increased proteins in the urine.
“It starts occurring at the 20th week of pregnancy which causes convulsion in the body and if not controlled quickly, it progresses from preeclampsia to eclampsia which is an emergency medical condition,” he explains.

Muhwezi explains that preeclampsia leads to an impaired foetus and brings impairment in kidneys and liver.
“In such an emergency, the pregnancy is terminated, induced or even C-section conducted to save the mother or baby. Under this condition, both the mother and the baby are at a high risk of losing their lives but it depends on the circumstances,” he adds.

Muhwezi explains that upon removing the baby, in most cases the pressure reduces and goes back to normal and if it remains high, it is called pregnancy induced hypertension or post eclampsia.

People at a high risk of acquiring preeclampsia include the known hypertensive, people with a history of hypertension and preeclampsia in the family, diabetics, multiple pregnancies, those who give birth later in life, primigravida (a woman in her first pregnancy) and early age pregnancies.

Eclampsia is characterised by visual problems, swollen face, feet, limbs and arms. Other problems include difficulties in breathing and vomiting.

Dr Muhwezi says the symptoms are also normal among pregnant mothers those with preeclampsia may not show any visual sign.
He suggests that routine antenatal checkups could help one know their blood pressure levels and proteins in the urine to have the problem discovered at a controllable stage.

“If discovered early, the mother is counselled, given medical treatment, and monitored immediately because she qualifies for preventive measures. Such people are advised to limit salt intake, taking calcium supplements and low doses of aspirin,” he says.

Barbara Kyeyune, a retired midwife from Mulago referral hospital explains that preeclampsia complicates about 10 percent of all pregnancies but the causes remain unknown despite research.[email protected]