A bit more of the why!

Slight change of plans for this week for 2 reasons, zero time to have written to the people I wanted to asking for support but also someone spoke to me yesterday about reading my blog, being interested, and then having to dig around for more of the what and why we`re doing it. So thought I`d go backwards for this week (this is generally how my brain works so good to get you readers used to it!). Sorry it`s such a long one so it`s definitely a good idea to grab a cuppa before reading further.

My pregnancy journey began in July 2016 when we decided to start a family, pretty big for me as I`d never wanted children previously but it felt right with Jeremy. We fell pregnant straight away but sadly at 7 weeks we lost `beanie`. Anyone who has to suffer a loss finds it difficult and I was no different, I blamed myself. I was running regularly at this point and tearing around at 100mph (standard for me) so made the decision to slow down, just train for fitness rather than races and cut my distances right down. I had one more half marathon booked in for March 2017 and that would be the last. Cambridge half came and went, was a tough race as felt very low in energy and desperate for a wee at mile 8-11. A week later had an inkling and after a positive pregnancy test we were expecting again.

Obviously I was terrified about what might happen. So when I woke up on a Saturday morning I was over the moon to feel nauseous, and when I revisited my breakfast a few hours later even more excited. I took it to be a good sign, it had to be right? I remember that Saturday so well, we visited a local garden centre with my step-son (2 at the time) and had lunch at their little tea room. Still feeling nauseous we set off home and shortly after arriving I was sick. And so the pattern continued for 72 hours, even drinking something resulted in my head in the toilet L Because of my previous miscarriage and anxiety I decided to go to the GP on the Monday,

I fully expected them to tell me it was normal, it would resolve itself and to drink/eat what I could until it did. I needed that reassurance that baby was ok. So imagine my surprise that after a urine dip (yes the dreaded Ketone marker) they agreed to blood tests and a prescription for Cyclizine with the request that if things didn’t improve immediately then to go back. I felt confused, surely you didn’t get anti-emetics for morning sickness? Thanks to the 21st century technology (my smart phone) and Google I set about seeing what this could be. Morning sickness, NVP (Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy), HG (hyperemesis Gravidarum) and a whole list of scary non pregnancy related things. Got to love Google for a bit of scare mongering.

Anyway my usual digression……Cyclizine had zero effect! So back I went and this time a prescription for Prochlorperazine. Very little other advice or information. Amongst all of this I had a small bleed at 7 weeks, cue panic! Not only was I feeling constantly sick (the Procholperazine stopped the actual vomiting) I was now off to the Early Pregnancy Unit to see if my pregnancy was viable. Luckily we were able to see our little Jude with a strong heartbeat (he was only a beating sac at this point!).

 I was exhausted from the sickness, the worry, and the standard first trimester tiredness. I had to stop running because I didn`t have enough energy to get me up never mind run. I was on and off/work for weeks because my determination dictated that I kept trying to work and not `give in` but after a couple of days on reduced hours my nausea was heightened so I was then off sick again, I was tired and energy levels were low. I was barely eating anything because it just exacerbated the symptoms.

20 weeks pregnant: I`d found the PSS support forum which was a life saver. I was able to talk to other people in the same situation as me. My GP had diagnosed HG- although I found this out via what was written on my sick note and the Prochlorperazine was holding the actual vomiting at bay. If I spent the majority of time resting I was able to do a few nice things with Jeremy. However I had no baby bump yet as I had lost over a stone in weight, ironically I look back at pictures now and am slightly envious of how slim I am in the face (probably me trying to see the upside of HG).

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Imagine my shock when at this point I vomited again. I`d read that there were various points where HG could subside……after 12 weeks and after 20 weeks were 2 common `end` points, so I was more than upset by this. Back to the GP I went, this time I had read the RCOG guidelines about the treatment for HG. I had read on the forum about people’s poor experiences with healthcare professionals in regards to HG treatment so thought going prepared could only help. Wow, my GP had the guidelines printed out in her hand and when I told her about the PSS website she went on it there and then in my appointment to have a look at what else may help. I left with a prescription of Ondansetron and reassurance to contact them straight away of any problems. At some point in the process I had a urine dip but followed by urgent bloods (there was lots of rushing around to get them done and sent off for the days deadline) to establish my levels of dehydration and they were fully prepared to send me up for IV fluids if needed. Luckily I didn’t. I was amazed as I had mostly read how people had been battling with the healthcare system to get the right treatment yet my GP seemed to be the total opposite of this.

After a few dose tweaks of the Ondansetron I reached the point where the nausea was more tolerable. I did however with the support of my boss agree to remain off sick until Jude arrived when I would start my maternity. No pressure to take early maternity or return to work whilst unwell, she was amazing (and still is!) This was a huge psychological blow for me, I`m used to being busy, what was I going to do if I wasn`t working. I wasn`t running anymore, time with Jeremy was limited to sedate activities as getting tired or stressed just exacerbated the nausea and would set me back for days. I had lots of feelings of guilt towards Jeremy and my step-son as I didn`t feel as if I was functioning. I decided to access some counselling through work to look at how I was feeling, develop way to manage my guilt and subsequent anxiety and try to be in the best place I could be mentally for Jude’s arrival. All the time I had in the back on my mind that I was `one of the lucky ones` because it wasn`t bad, I wasn`t in hospital on IV’s, I wasn`t vomiting and I had good support around me……all that did was feed into my guilt.

It was a tough journey and I can honestly say that the only thought I gave to my labour was it would signal the end of HG and that I didn`t want any pain relief due to the risk of it exacerbating sickness, not even gas and air. I ended up with an injection of Diamorphine because I was getting tired and it comes with an anti—emetic injection, I had a half dose just in case but it was enough to give me some rest. One of the memories I do have is one of the midwives harping on and on about my ketones being 3+ and if it didn’t improve I`d have to have a medical led labour (we were in a lovely room with a bath, double bed etc), she gave me apple juice with granulated sugar in it, I mean come on, how many of you would drink that under normal circumstances never mind when you feel nauseous and in labour??!!

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My HG disappeared immediately and I was starving!! All they could offer me was toast, it was the best toast I had ever.

Since then it has been anything but smooth however to this day I still know I was a `lucky` HG sufferer because I had brilliant support from my GP, work and obviously Jeremy. It made all the difference to my journey. It`s this that drives my want to support the charity, the care you receive during any illness shouldn`t be a lottery postcode, especially when all the information is out there for the healthcare system. Not enough is known about the causes of HG, the longer term effects etc but research is ongoing and is supported by PSS. GP’s absolutely have a tough job and I never expect them to know everything but I do expect them to be open to learning about something if they are faced with a lady in my situation. There is no shame is saying to patients `I`ve pulled the RCOG guidelines up to look at so we can work out a treatment plan that works for you`.

So our 245 miles is to raise money to continue to help those ladies that feel isolated access peer support, or talk to Karen and Leonie in the office on the helpline, or support the research into understanding more about HG, or allow for some GP training programmes. Each mile represents not only my journey but for every one that has, is, or might suffer.

Karen Lodge