As a career and family-oriented female, I’ve always wanted children. At the age of 35 my husband and I decided to start our family. We got pregnant and were enjoying the journey to parenthood.
During the latter part of my third trimester, I began to experience elevated blood pressure readings. My OB-GYN did several tests but didn’t provide a diagnosis. A few weeks later he decided to induce labor as my blood pressure reading was still elevated. We’re now parents of a healthy baby boy.
A few hours after delivery I experienced swelling in my legs and I had a really bad headache. But I didn’t have pain in my legs. My legs and feet were so large that I was unable to wear shoes when leaving the hospital. Days after arriving home I was still experiencing swelling and pain in my legs and feet. I also had difficulty breathing while sleeping on my back. The pain and difficulty breathing became worse and I ended up in the emergency room. The treating physician was a white male, who asked if I had experienced heart burn during my pregnancy. I responded yes, and he ordered a medical cocktail and sent me home. He did not examine me, order any bloodwork nor ask about any additional medical history.
Upon returning home, I continued to feel bad and now began to experience severe headaches. I returned to the ER where I was treated by an African American female, who ordered bloodwork and asked questions about my medical history. She gave me a diagnosis of Postpartum preeclampsia. Postpartum preeclampsia is a rare condition that occurs when a woman has high blood pressure and excess protein in her urine soon after childbirth. I was admitted to the hospital where I remained for approximately a week. During this time, I was prescribed medications to prevent me from having seizures and developing blood clots.
For the next seven months I was treated for high blood pressure, given blood thinner to prevent blood clots, and medications to slow my heart rate. I was also referred to a cardiologist to monitor my heart.
I often wonder what would’ve happened if the white male physician would have taken the time to evaluate my concerns and conducted some tests. My husband worked the night shift which left me home alone with the newborn baby; I could have had a seizure and been unable to care for my child.
It is imperative that we share these stories and experiences so that others do not have to experience these tragic moments. Our stories and experiences of yesterday can make for a brighter future for others.