HELLP Syndrome: “My wife and newborn son fought for their lives”

Unless you have lived it, it is hard to imagine the fear and uncertainty that plagues parents when their babies arrive dangerously early.

Michael Vosmansky remembers the day he became a dad and those that followed were the most “harrowing” of his life.

The Melbourne dad says he was left feeling helpless in the waiting room as doctors worked to save the lives of his wife and their son.

“It was a pretty scary experience,” he says.

It may have been nine years ago, but Michael still remembers the tearful call he received from Karin to say her obstetrician wanted her to go to hospital straight away.

Karin was only 32 weeks pregnant but had developed HELLP Syndrome – a severe form of pre-eclampsia putting both her life and that of their unborn baby in jeopardy.

Michael made his way to the hospital by taxi.

“I got there and Karin basically deteriorated over the course of the afternoon, she was getting sicker and sicker very quickly,” he recalls.

“They hooked her up to a few different machines and gave her some medications, then told us they weren’t equipped for this sort of emergency and we had to be transferred.”

Karin was taken by ambulance to the Mercy Hospital for Women and underwent surgery immediately.

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Michael was left in the waiting room until medical staff emerged with a humidity crib containing his newborn son, Robert.

He tells Babyology it wasn’t Robert’s small size that surprised him.

“At the time I hadn’t seen any newborns prior to that, it was more that he was in a mobile humidity crib and I couldn’t hold him or touch him,” Michael says.

“The whole birth experience was completely different to what I had imagined it to be.”

 

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Michael followed as Robert was wheeled to the NICU where he was still in for a fight.

“They had to intubate him because he was having trouble breathing so I got kicked out of the room again, so I didn’t have to watch them do it,” Michael says.

“And at this point I still hadn’t seen Karin.”

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It was two days before Karin was able to see Robert, and Michael recalls the weeks that followed were “exhausting” as he balanced work, visiting Robert and Karin on separate levels of the hospital and trying to complete house renovations.

“When our son was born, there wasn’t any support like there is today, we basically had to go through it by ourselves,” Michael says.

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It is for this reason Karin became passionately involved in the cause, and today coordinates the annual Walk For Prems events held across Australia on October 23 to raise money for Life’s Little Treasures Foundation.

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“As my husband has said, there was a point where he walked out of the hospital at 3am and both myself and Robbie were in intensive care and he goes, ‘I literally thought I was walking out with nothing’,” Karin says.

“It was harder for him because he had to deal with it for the first few days and I was unconscious so I didn’t know what was going on.”

Robert is a healthy nine-year-old today but Karin says the drama surrounding his birth seems “like it was yesterday”.

“I remember at some point, Michael saying it was a boy and then I remember waking up and I was hooked up to all of these machines and Michael had taken photos – he would go a couple of levels down and take photos of Robbie and bring them up to show me,” Karin recalls.

Today, she credits extensive early interventions for his great health.

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“He is still small compared to others his age but, compared to other families with prems, we have come out fairly unscathed,” Karin says.

Karin and Michael went on to have a daughter in another high risk pregnancy but she managed to reach 37 weeks.

Karin joined up with Life’s Little Treasures Foundation and helped found Walk For Prems, which allows families with similar stories to come together each year, talk and enjoy a fun day.

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