Kelly Chando was both excited and slightly anxious when she arrived at Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–Muhlenberg in December 2017 to have her first baby. What should have been a routine delivery following a normal pregnancy escalated into an emergency cesarean section that kept her and her newborn son, Cael Stephen, in the hospital for five days. However, Cael’s delivery was not the end of health concerns that took the Palmer Township mom off guard.
Looking back, Chando says the first sign that something wasn’t right occurred before she and her son left the hospital. “My husband, Mark, said, ‘Don’t take this the wrong way, but you don’t look like you’ve lost even a pound,’” she says. Once she got home, the former half-marathoner had trouble catching her breath and suffered headaches. “I kept telling myself that I wasn’t getting enough sleep, but the headaches were becoming debilitating,” Chando recalls. “Luckily, I had a call scheduled with a nurse on my fourth day home. I described what was going on physically. She told me to go see my obstetrician immediately. Dr. [Patrick] McIntyre took one look at me and said we needed to get to the hospital.”
Preeclampsia = dangerously high blood pressure
Chando, who had no signs of preeclampsia during her pregnancy, was now exhibiting a classic symptom: high blood pressure. When she arrived at McIntyre’s office, her blood pressure was 165/100 mm HG – and it kept increasing. (Blood pressure of 120/80 mm HG or less is considered normal.) “I felt like I was either going to have a heart attack or pass out,” she says. Preeclampsia primarily develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy and up to six weeks postpartum. No one knows for certain what causes it. Signs include high blood pressure in women who have not previously experienced it before, high levels of protein in urine, swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches and changes in vision. “Preeclampsia is a serious condition for the mother and her unborn baby,” says McIntyre, a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist with LVPG Obstetrics and Gynecology. “We screen for preeclampsia at every prenatal and postpartum visit. If a pregnant or postpartum woman develops headaches, swelling or difficulty breathing, she should contact her doctor immediately.”
Chando was admitted to LVH–Muhlenberg and reunited with nurses Angela Werley, RN, Brandy Lyons, RN, Sarah Hines, RN, and Heather Rice, RN, who had cared for her and son Cael only a few days earlier. “It was so comforting to see them and to know that I’d be getting the best care,” she says. “Those small gestures – holding my hand, listening to my concerns and engaging in some humor here and there – made a monumental difference in my mindset and recovery.” The health care team began administering magnesium sulfate to treat the preeclampsia, and Chando underwent diagnostic tests to be sure the high blood pressure hadn’t caused bleeding in her brain. On the second day of her stay, her family brought baby Cael in to see his mother. “I missed him so much,” she says. “I just held him and we stared at each other for about 30 minutes.”
Home, for good
Once her blood pressure was in check, Chando returned home. She initially had to take blood pressure medication and use a blood pressure cuff to monitor her numbers, but is now running again and is off the medication. Cael is a healthy and active baby, who weighed in at more than 18 pounds at his four-month checkup. In the spirit of giving back, Chando is an advocate for increasing awareness of – and research for – preeclampsia. Locally, she and her family raised funds for the Lehigh Valley Promise Walk for Preeclampsia. She also joined the Preeclampsia Registry, a database that gathers information from those affected by preeclampsia. Its aim is to discover treatment and prevention strategies to help women, many like Chando, who develop preeclampsia unexpectedly.
– Janet McIntyre
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