I have written here many times about my scars. The nearly 2 feet of scars I now possess because of HELLP syndrome and the death of my daughter.
What I have not written here is about the other lasting effects that HELLP has had on my body. How my body has changed, for better and for the worse in ways I can never explain. I am no medical expert and will never pretend to be rather am simply telling about how my body differed on February 6th 2011 to how it is now.
When I was 21(2004) I went on antidepressants due to PTSD. This was my first and a more mild run in I had with the disease that I would come to know all too well 7 years later. I was only on the medication for a few months and was able to go off of it quickly with the help of EMDR therapy. The effects of the medication, however, were very long lasting on my waistline. From that time forward I carried 60 extra pounds I did not need to have. I worked ENDLESSLY to lose the weight. I mean, arduously working out 6 days a week for 2 hours a day and it came off one pound one week…none for a few after that…then I would lose another pound. It was the fight of my early 20’s. To rid myself of that weight. I was able to get half of it off before Ava’s pregnancy on my own as you can see in the difference between the two pictures below.
|Our honeymoon in British Columbia in 2007- Lost some of the weight|
Compared to now
What changed? HELLP syndrome.
One of my earliest memories after Ava died was the day I was able to walk to the bathroom by myself. I walked by a mirror and saw my eyes, my almost gaunt face and prominent collar bones. We jokingly called it the ICU diet. In 7 years I was able to lose 30 pounds before HELLP and then I lost the remaining 30 pounds in 7 days in the ICU.
No joke. In a week I lost 30 pounds. On my small 5 foot frame, that is a lot of weight!
Maybe it was the blood loss that got rid of that awful medication (awful for me, you do whatever you need to in order to survive PTSD and depression, no judgement here) or perhaps it was the 14 units of blood I received. Maybe it was trauma? Either way, I woke up in the body that I thought I wanted for years and suddenly didn’t care.
That irony was not lost on me.
What else changed? My fingers tingle all the time. All. The. Time. No doctor can tell me why. But there you are. I have numbness in my hands and arms …even toes sometimes. I have visual changes. My prescription in my glasses has changed so many times I cannot count. I have given up entirely and my eye doctor has me coming back in another month to finally assess where my eyes are because they change daily it seems. My short term memory is abysmal. Nearly 3 years after HELLP it is finally getting better …that or I am getting better at living with it. I write lists, a lot of lists and rely heavily on repetition of thought.
I am physically stronger than I have ever been in my life. Odd. To be ruined by a condition this way and then be able to feel like you could lift a truck. I am very physically strong. I build muscle easily, my endurance is higher and my hormones are balanced for the first time in years.
My ribs hurt every single day. There is no one day in my life where they don’t ache and pull. They were split in the surgeries and despite months of physio they are a constant in my life. They crack and creak, pull and pop on a daily basis. I have to be careful how I lift and turn, especially with my adorable monkey that loves to sit on my hips. They react to weather and if I am on my feet for a long period of time, they are my Achilles heel.
My stomach muscles are destroyed. Between two babies and 4 surgeries it is simply over. The only solution to fixing my stomach is yet another surgery which I am not willing to do at this point. Really I will just own stock in Spanx soon.
Physically am completely different after HELLP. I worried a lot about it in the beginning, if Matthew would love me with scars and with the new version of me. He has loved me just the same. I am slowly learning to respect the scars for what they are. I am slowly accepting this new bodily version of me although I am acutely aware that I could wake up tomorrow with it completely different. Everything can change in a blink of an eye, from your priorities of what you want to what state you are physically in. HELLP has changed everything about my life, there is no part of me it has touch or maimed.
I am just glad I survived it.