Saturday, September 21, 2013

Confessions of a HG Husband: Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Carrie is pregnant. 

Baby #3 is coming this Spring.  I should have made more calls than I did but given the circumstances I hope you will forgive me. 

I wouldn't be honest if I didn't say I am super excited, worried, stressed, concerned, overwhelmed and lost.  We've been here before.  When Carrie was pregnant with Tyler she was so sick.  She threw up several times a day.  Her doctor prescribed some medicine that was supposed to help.  She was on a combination of Zofran and Phenergan(sp?).   

It was hard on her but we made it through.  We didn't get pregnant as quickly as we would have because of the "morning sickness".  Still as time passed we began to think, who knows, maybe it wouldn't be so bad the next time.  Maybe it just happened that one time, we thought.  We were wrong.  So wrong.

During Carrie's pregnancy with Lydia we learned her sickness has a name.  Hyperemesis gravidarum.  Doctors will tell you it is severe to extreme morning sickness, that it is brought on by the production of the hormone "human chorionic gonadotropin" which is released by the placenta.  In other words, "Congratulations because you're pregnant!  Sorry you don't feel so well".

Here's what Hyperemesis really means:

It means making trips to the emergency room or urgent care because your wife is not eating and when she eats, she throws up.  She is not drinking.  When she drinks anything, she throws up.  Since she is not drinking and what she does drink gets thrown up, she gets dehydrated.  The dehydration leads to more trips to the hospital.  It means watching the woman you love sleep as much as she can not because she's lazy but because when she's asleep she's not in pain.  Hyperemesis means her entire body aches and there is nothing you can do about it.  It means that you will at least once hear her say "I just want to die."  And when I say once, I mean once a day.  Most of the time she may just look at you, too in pain, too weakened by the ordeal that she wants it all over with and it hurts to see her like that because there is nothing you can do.  Then what do you do?  You leave her, alone, in her bed with the lights out because you have to go to work, you have to take care of your kids, you have to go to school or take a test.  Yeah, that's what hyperemesis gravidarum really means.

Hyperemesis means you will get suggestions from friends, acquaintances, family members and anyone else.  Did you try saltine crackers?  Yes, we tried saltine crackers.  In fact I smashed them up so small they were barely even crumbs and then I'd feed them to her one by one.  Any bigger and they'd come right back up.  Even then there were no guarantees.  Did you try this great drug, it's called Zofran or Reglan or Phenergan.  A drug?  You mean there is medicine she can take that will help?  Of course we know about that.  During the last pregnancy I had a precise schedule set out for Carrie, she was on all three.  Did it help?  Um, no.  Not really.  I mean maybe it did.  Maybe she would have been even worse but that's not something I can really wrap my head around because I saw how bad she was. 

Hyperemesis means calling doctor after doctor, tracking down nurse after nurse.  They would try to give her IVs to give her liquid.  I'd pray they'd be able to find a vein.  Once she was poked 4 times and they finally found a vein after DIGGING AROUND.  I still can picture the tears on her face. 

If hyperemesis is severe morning sickness, the plague is a severe cold.

She had a picc line because I was tired of the nurses trying to poke her.  We made half a dozen trips to urgent care or the emergency room in two weeks.  So hyperemesis means changing IV bags in a process that could take between six and nine hours just to keep her hydrated.  At least that worked.

Maybe you're like I was, you hear about someone having "severe or extreme" morning sickness and you think, oh, buck up, you'll be okay.  I was so, so, so very wrong.  You have to understand these are the same medicines they prescribe to patients undergoing chemo.  Chemicals are killing things in their body and they give them this stuff to make them feel better, and it didn't really help Carrie.  We're not talking about throwing up 14 times during a pregnancy, we're talking about throwing up 14 times A DAY!  People smile and think, "you'll live".  It's true, there is a VERY small chance of someone dying from HG.  Yet most people never understand. 

To the hyperemesis mothers.

You are brave.  You are amazing and you are warriors.  I am so glad we have our little Lydia now.  I hope you are blessed as we have been.  Carrie and I always say, "Everyone needs a Lydia."  My 6 year old son, while I was putting Lydia down, ran downstairs to help Carrie while she was throwing up.  Every mother needs a Tyler.

I honestly feel for you.  I weep for you.  You mothers have to be so brave already during pregnancy and to have such a disease compounded upon everything else is not fair in any way.  I pray for you.  I hope you have help, a wonderful husband a supportive extended family, friends you can rely on and who will drop everything to come to your aid and children who are adoring and understanding in every possible way.  That is the only thing that got us through it and honestly there were times when I wasn't sure Carrie was going to make it.  I'm no doctor so please go talk to your doctor but seriously consider a PICC line, frequent IV's, small easily digestible foods, following a strict and frequent snack schedule, telling your husband he is never allowed to cook anything beyond opening up a package of bread, demanding being treated like a queen (with jewels) every Mother's Day and taking whatever medication a doctor may recommend.  If your husband doesn't believe me about the cooking let him know that I am banned from ever having buffalo wings in my house.  I made the mistake of cooking them early on during Carrie's pregnancy, now they always make her nauseous. 

Medication Tip:

Your Rx drugs can get expensive, you may have to buy a lot of them.  Don't just call your favorite pharmacy.  Call around.  Ask for the cash price of your medications.  You will be surprised at how much they vary, in some cases by as much as 60%.  True story.  In our own experience one pharmacy sold the prescription for less than the co-pay at another pharmacy. 

Congratulations on your pregnancy.  May God bless you and help you and your family through this trial.  I'm praying He helps us through ours.