I was brought up (mostly) and deeply loved by my Aunt Mattie who nearly died from eclampsia and who lost her only child in that process. The family told the story as families do, in whispers and allusions. I don't know the details. I do know the Protestant Irish side of the family blamed the Catholic hospital for her near death: "You know," they murmured, "they save the baby first, and then worry about the mother." I might try to find the death records later. I am just reporting now.
So eclampsia niggles around in the back of my mind every time someone I know is pregnant. And then Elana has headaches. I am mentally running in circles and shrieking. When she gets the blurred vision, I know what has happened. I am on the computer searching for eclampsia when Seth yells from upstairs in a tone that brooks no hesitation. I sprint for the stairs to see him struggling to hold her as she goes into grand mal seizures.
grand mal seizures.
The following are the immediate notes, from that day:
Eclampsia. An angel delivered Ron into the house from work
at exactly that moment.
EMT's arrived. They raced off to the hospital, had to
trach her, her airway and tongue were so swollen. C-section.
Immediate delivery is the only solution to eclampsia, the only way to save the mother.
When they put her in the rig, I was pretty sure we had lost her. Had no idea about the baby.
They got to the hospital and most of the ER, OB and Neonate workers were waiting in the ambulance bay. We learned later that student nurses were called down to watch. This is not voyeurism.
No one sees eclampsia any more. Better prenatal care catches the pre-eclampsia. They put the woman to bed and give her stuff to lower her blood pressure. Full blown eclampsia is such a rarity that the OB who delivered the baby had not seen it.
All this sounds calm. We are educated. We are a medical family. We handle panic through information.
NO WE DO NOT.
Information is good. But it does not control the terror, not horror movie, fun terror, the real terror in the face of the death of a young woman and her baby. A daughter-in-law, a grandchild.
Terror possesses the body, inhabits your stomach, your head, you shoulders and toes which curl under. Really. And then it crawls off and lurks in the form of anxiety. It keeps you up or puts you to sleep. It makes you weepy or surly, snappish and stupid. Deep breathing helps, maybe. It did keep me from screaming and running around. Various things helped at various times: prayer, a friend showing up, mostly Amy's calm transmission of any information we needed and Ron's interpretations of all the ICU speak.
I never liked horror movies. I don't like being scared. I like it a lot less now. I need a Doris Day movie, I think. Or maybe just another long walk with the dog.