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I Almost Died Before My Doctor Would Listen

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During her pregnancy, one mom knew something was wrong -- but her doctor assured her that "pregnant women are just uncomfortable." Her near-death experience made her realize that a mom's biggest advocate needs to be herself. Here's her story.

Angela and Samia Logan

Guest Blogger Angela Burgin Logan: It's 7:00 AM and my water has broken. The Pitocin is started, and the big day has arrived. My baby girl is on the way. It's finally coming all together. I was a newlywed to a rising R&B star, president of my own marketing company, and now a suburban mom. I was a real housewife from New York (by way of Buffalo), living a charmed life.

What nearly caused this dream to become a nightmare? A killer of Black women that this college grad didn't know about.

I had excelled in business, working with a Fortune 500 company, then on to sports heroes and television stars. I trusted myself and listened to my instincts. I kept on pushing until I achieved my goals. My near tragic flaw was not applying these same principles to my health.

Things started out well. I had the cravings, distaste, swelling, and discomfort that women
normally experience during pregnancy. However, at the midway point of my pregnancy, things started to change -- and I began to sense that something was wrong. I began to gain weight rapidly. I had passed the recommended 25 to 35 pounds easily and was well on my way to 50. This is not something this 36-26-36 -- okay, 36-29-36 -- was expecting, especially with so much time to go. I had hoped to keep my weight to a reasonable amount so I could get back into shape quickly.

I expressed to my doctor and nurse that I was concerned about my weight gain, as I
started to gain five pounds a week on a regular basis, and the swelling I was experiencing
was getting difficult. My feet and legs were getting huge. They told me that I was
experiencing edema or swelling that pregnant women experience, and not to worry. They
discussed my diet as a way of managing my weight gain. I certainly was eating more than
I had before -- but was I really eating this much?

As the days wore on, I became increasingly uncomfortable. I was constantly propping
myself up with pillows because I could not breathe well when lying flat. I expressed this to my doctor -- and they recommended I get a body contour pillow and simply understand that pregnant women are frequently uncomfortable.

An alarm was beginning to go off in my head. I was 30-something -- not 20-something -- which I knew made my pregnancy somewhat high risk. My feet were so swollen I could no longer fit into any of my shoes. My legs were beginning to feel like bricks, and I had to sleep upright. I began to Google "edema" to get tips on managing swelling during pregnancy, but nothing seemed to help. I started having a frequent pain in my left arm and difficulty even walking. I was short of breath, and my feet and legs were so swollen and tight. I kept saying to my doctor, something is wrong. He explained that pregnancy is difficult on a woman's body.

Inside, I was beginning to break down. I did not want to appear weak. I had accomplished so much and I didn't want anyone to feel that this former Syracuse University cheerleading captain and relentless business executive could not take the discomforts of pregnancy.

On one doctor's visit, I learned I had gained more than 15 pounds in one week. I was mortified. My doctor and nurse continued to talk to me about my diet and watching what I eat. I insisted that my doctor send me for some tests. I knew something was wrong. He was hesitant, but agreed to send me for some blood work and a urinalysis. I began to feel like I was being labeled the "b" word. You know, a "baby": a paranoid, anxious, and nervous new mother who constantly complained about her aches and pains.

When the test results came in, it revealed that I had protein in my urine and low blood platelets. Although I didn't know the significance of these results, I was thinking, OK, I knew something was not quite right. I asked my doctor how many weeks I would need to get to before they could induce me and deliver my baby. He indicated that this was not an option, that he didn't have a strong enough reason to induce me early. I would simply have to go into labor naturally.

I went home deflated. I was concerned about the welfare of my child, and I thought that this would be the evidence I needed to prove that something was wrong -- and that I needed to deliver my baby a little early. A few more weeks passed, and the situation became unbearable. I was so swollen that my feet were cracking and bleeding when I walked. I thought enough's enough. I am going to insist that my doctor induce me.

He still declined to do so, as he felt that nothing was wrong medically that would jeopardize the baby. I insisted that more tests be taken, and they came back with the same results. Only this time, my blood pressure was high. My doctor dismissed my blood pressure as nerves, and stated that I needed to hold out and wait for the baby to be born naturally.

On the night of my delivery, I went to the hospital, as I simply could not breathe well. When I got there, I had an extremely elevated blood pressure, protein in my urine, low blood platelets, and shortness of breath. The resident and nurse who were caring for me felt I should be induced. I had all of these symptoms, plus I was having contractions that were three minutes apart. I was actually going into labor! They consulted with my doctor and finally agreed to provide me with some Pitocin to get my contractions moving.

My husband was thrilled. This R&B singer would really have something to sing about -- our baby girl was on the way and I would get some relief.

My next step was to get a catheter. I was concerned about this -- I was like, you are going to place what, where? But more than that, they wanted to lie me flat to place it. I stated my strong disapproval of this, as I was already having such trouble breathing and I had spent the last three months completely upright. The two nurses that were administering it told me that I had to lie flat and it had to be done, so I reluctantly agreed.

This began a tragic string of events. All of the fluid that had built up to a nearly 100-pound weight gain began to back up into my lungs. I could not breathe. I was actually drowning and did not know it. I began telling the nurses I could not breathe. They told me and my husband that I was having a panic attack. I had to scream for someone to help me. I felt myself dying. I was thinking of my baby and family and knew if something did not happen, I would not be with them. Suddenly, more doctors began to flood the room and my husband was rushed out. My last memory was calling out to Jesus for help.

My doctor came to my husband to get his permission to put me under and take the baby. They told him that my baby and I were in critical condition. My husband told them to do what they had to do, that God would see me through.

I was diagnosed with severe preeclampsia and peripartum cardiomyopathy. I went into a coma, was not breathing on my own, and had suffered from pulmonary edema and kidney and heart failure. Perhaps the greatest failure was my doctor not recognizing the symptoms of preeclampsia and treating me for the disorder. I also failed to steadfastly listen to myself. I knew that there was something significantly wrong, but trusted in my doctor's care more than myself. The good news is that God did not fail to remember me on that day, and I overcame the 20 percent chance they gave me.

I have since learned that preeclampsia is a disorder that occurs during pregnancy and the postpartum period. It is characterized by high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine. Swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches, and blurred vision are also other symptoms of the disease. The onset of this disease can occur after 20 weeks of gestation, or can advance rapidly at a later point during pregnancy or labor. Early onset is associated with increased morbidity. It is the leading cause of maternal and fetal death around the world. Preeclampsia, Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH), and toxemia are closely related conditions. HELLP Syndrome and eclampsia are other manifestations of the same syndrome. The only way to cure preeclampsia is with delivery of the baby. However, if the baby is too premature, it is possible to manage the disease with close monitoring, bed rest, blood pressure medication, diuretics, and magnesium sulfates, also known as Epsom salt. Preeclampsia is also one of the leading causes of premature births and the difficulties that can accompany them, including learning disabilities, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and hearing and vision problems.

Doctors do not know why some women get preeclampsia. On average, 1 in 10 women are affected with the disorder. They do know that some women are at a higher risk than others.

The risk of developing preeclampsia is increased in women who:

• Are pregnant for the first time
• Have had preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy
• Have a history of chronic hypertension
• Are 35 years or older
• Are carrying more than one fetus
• Have certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or kidney disease
• Are obese
• Are African-American
• Have certain immune disorders such as lupus, or blood diseases

Researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics have determined that African-American women are three times more likely than white women to die of preeclampsia or eclampsia. Prenatal care has the "biggest impact" on maternal deaths. In my case, although I had prenatal care, continued education is needed among medical professionals about preeclampsia.

Women who develop preeclampsia during pregnancy have twice the odds of having a heart attack or stroke later in life, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

When I regained consciousness, I learned that my beautiful Samia Angelique was born. She initially was in significant distress, as she wasn't breathing when she was born and had other complications. However, by the grace of God, she is doing well today. The impact on my heart was significant. I now have peripartum cardiomyopathy; I am a young woman with a heart issue.

For me, the biggest matter of the heart is to assure that women and medical professionals understand the signs and symptoms of this disorder. This could be you, your aunt, cousin, or friend.

For more info, please go to www.preeclampsia.org or www.amothersheart.org.


next: Vacationing Girl's Message in Bottle Follows Her Home
45 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous September 11, 2009, 3:49 AM

Sorry that you had to go through so much and your doctor did not take you seriously when you complained. I recently went through some medical issues and my doctor wouldn’t take me serious either…I don’t know what is wrong with doctors these days. It seem they want you to diagnois yourself. Glad everything turned out okay for you and your daughter.

Christine September 11, 2009, 4:33 AM

I hope what people take away from this is that they have the right to fire their health professional (and get a new one) if they feel they are not getting the care and attention they deserve!

CV September 11, 2009, 4:34 AM

You know, as you were describing your symptoms in the essay, *I* knew where you were going with it. And your doctor didn’t? Shame on the doctor for not recognizing such serious symptoms for what they were.

My doc ordered blood tests anytime my between appt weight gain was more than what it should have been, and they did urine tests at every single appt to check for protein. I’m thankful that he did.

I was very happy to read that your story had an obviously happy ending. But still…I am frustrated on your behalf at your doctor!

jenny September 11, 2009, 5:08 AM

Did your doctor print out his own diploma from the web?? What the heck?!

Alisha Johnson September 11, 2009, 5:22 AM

Angela,

Your story is an amazing one. Prayerfully other women will read your story today or sometime in the future and decide to trust their gut feeling, even if it means switching doctors during their pregnancy.

Continue to talk about your story to promote awareness to this horrible condition affecting women all over.

God has blessed you with a gorgeous daughter, a wonderful husband, and your life – continue to educate and encourage! You’re awesome.


~Alisha

Charlene September 11, 2009, 5:35 AM

Angie,

I am so grateful you survived your awful ordeal and proud of your coming forward with your story to encourage and assist other moms to be advocates for themselves and their children! The best to your wonderful new family!

Anonymous September 11, 2009, 5:40 AM

I’m a firm believer in a second opinion when you have that nagging suspicion that something isn’t just quite right. I’m glad you made it out ok. Out of 6 pregnancies, I had 3 miscarriages and 2 high risk with severe complications, one causing my son to be born premature and we both barely survived. So I understand where you are coming from. Luckily, I had doctors that went the extra mile to make sure I was given proper medical attention. Without their over cautious attitude, it’s 100% positive that I wouldn’t be here today.

pamela September 11, 2009, 6:31 AM

Wow, I hope this isn’t common. The exact smae thing happen to my sister she nearly died giving birth to her 2nd child.

Lauri September 11, 2009, 7:21 AM

My mother nearly died from the exact same problems. The sad thing was that she had had preeclampsia and toxemia with two previous pregnancies, so she had a history of it. The same doctor who handled both previous pregnancies for some reason didn’t catch the exact same signs. She actually made it out of the hospital after having my sister, but her blood pressure was high. She was back in the hospital within 24 hours of being released, with fluid in her lungs. She spent 12 days on a ventilator, had a stroke, and spent years on various medications. Ended up having to have a hysterectomy because of the stress her body had been put through. Due to all the medications, she’s now in kidney failure.

Needless to say, that doctor was “fired”. You couldn’t PAY me to go back to her.

Tara Brown September 11, 2009, 8:56 AM

Thank you for your story. As mentioned, the key is awareness and education. The more women share their stories, the healthier they and their children will be. You may have saved a life today with this story. Thank you.

Anonymous September 11, 2009, 9:14 AM

Angela, I pray that you are allowed to share your story around the world to help educate others!!! Thank God that you and Samia made it through this horrible experience!!! Thanks for sharing!

Angela Gilchrist

Mom2two September 11, 2009, 9:38 AM

I CANNOT believe that you went through this. Your doctor should be sued for malpractice. Testing for protein in your urine is a simple urine dip. Where I live it’s routine to do it at every doctor’s visit. How on earth did your doctor just dismiss protein in your urine??!?! When I showed protein in my urine dip with my first pregnancy I was immediately sent to the hospital to be induced (although I was at term anyway). Did you ‘google’ protein in urine during pregnancy? You would have been flooded with info on how it is a warning sign in pregnant women. I am truly flabbergasted that your doctor let this go.

Dorinda D. Collins September 11, 2009, 10:01 AM

Angie,

Your story is nothing short of a miracle and truly demonstrates the power of God. Thank you for sharing! Your willingness to share will help save lives and inspire people to trust that small voice inside.
May God continue to bless you and your family.

Dorinda

Claire September 11, 2009, 10:23 AM

This is INSANE. I cannot believe that this doctor is licensed to practice medicine. I also had preeclampsia with my first baby, but thanks to my doctor’s quick reaction, both baby and are were fine. No one should have to go through this!

Charmion Flood September 11, 2009, 10:31 AM

Angie, thanks for putting this story out!!! I experienced the same with my daughter and the doctor insisted it was my diet. The only difference is I didn’t have high blood pressure. The whole pregnancy experience is why I opted not to have anymore children. Take care and continue to listen to your inner spirit.

bob September 11, 2009, 11:12 AM

I cannot believe that Drs would miss this. Who are the quacks who specialize in OB and don’t know the signs? WOW.

shea September 11, 2009, 12:48 PM

this exact thing happened 2 me i was in a coma 4 a month but luckily me and my son r alive and well! it was a terrible time i had preclamsia diabetes and toximia they over looked my symtoms as well

Gigohead  September 11, 2009, 6:34 PM

I’m also a preclampsia survivor. I gave birth to my son 8 weeks early on August 27, 2009 and he is still in the NICU. He’s doing terrific and growing. I can’t wait to get him some.

My diagnosis was tough, I had high blood pressures but no protein in the urine until a month later when I had severe edema and super high blood pressure. My doctors did not want to risk it and I they took the baby out at 31 weeks after two rounds of steroids.

I’m glad they made that decision. I was on my way to extreme danger. My son and I are so lucky.

Anonymous September 11, 2009, 7:10 PM

Wow! It’s hard to believe so many signs were missed! I’m not sure what the routine is in the US, but I am a family physician in Canada and urine and blood pressure are checked at every single prenatal visit to screen for pre-eclampsia. I agree with other posters, if you don’t feel that your physician is taking you seriously, you need to advocate for yourself, which may mean switching doctors.

Kristi Yates September 11, 2009, 9:39 PM

I had preeclampsia with my first son, but was blessed to have a doctor that listened and was vigilant with my care! Unfortunately it progressed quite fast and my son had to be delivered at 31 weeks, but because of my Doctors close monitoring my son is healthy and strong today! What happened with my next son is what I tell everyone about hoping no one will go through what I did…I also had preeclampsia with my second, but was monitored closing because of my previous problems. I even made it to 35 weeks (I was on bed rest for months in the hospital) my son was born healthy my symptoms sup sided once he was born and we were sent home! Things were fine until the following night at home, when I started to feel like something was wrong. I felt like I did when I was pregnant! But I just kept telling myself that nothing was wrong..I had just had a baby I was just worn out!? My husband is the one who actually dragged me to the hospital, but by the time I had got there it was too late, and even though they knew right away what was wrong from my extremely high blood pressure, I had a seizure soon after they admitted me(even on the really high dose of mag!) I was in bad shape for about a week and spent two more weeks in the hospital! I thought I knew everything there was to know about preeclampsia! But never was I told you can get post preeclampsia, you have the baby and it’s over..that’s what I always thought! I know it’s sort of rare, but if I had known it was even a possibility maybe I would have got some help before it turned to eclampsia!


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