A mum who lost her baby is turning her tragedy into something positive to help other parents. She tells GAYLE ROUNCIVELL her story.
When Kelly Lewis first complained of indigestion and aching shoulders, she put it down to the fact she was a little more than three months pregnant.
On the final day I was put into the bereavement room. At the time I wasn’t really taking any of it in.
As a first-time mum, Kelly was unaware of the severity of the symptoms and just how dangerous they could turn out to be.
As the pains persisted, Kelly sought medical diagnosis and was given reassurance that she had nothing more than a water infection.
However, Kelly was eventually diagnosed with HELLP syndrome, a rare condition similar to pre-eclampsia.
Her organs were failing and her life was at risk and her only hope was for doctors to deliver her baby – at just 16 weeks.
Kelly, who lives in Lancaster Road, Morecambe, now 30, and her husband David want to raise awareness of the illness in a bid to help other expectant mums. And to mark five years since their unborn daughter died, Kelly and her husband David began a series of fund-raising events with a 25km walk.
Kelly says: “It happened at 16-and-a-half weeks of my pregnancy, We had gone for the 12-week scan and everything was fine. Then I started becoming unwell and getting pain in my shoulders and a feeling like indigestion.
“Because it was my first pregnancy I thought it was normal but it got pregressively worse. It all happened really quickly. At first my symptoms were misdiagnosed as a water infection. It was only when I got really poorly and had further tests that they realised and by then they had to deliver the baby or I would die.
“I went into the Royal Lancaster Infirmary for tests and had it explained to me and then I was taken to the delivery suite. I remember at one point I looked up at the doctors and asked: ‘Am I going to die?’”
Kelly gave birth to a daughter, who the couple named Ellissia. Sadly, at such an early stage of pregnancy, Ellissia could not survive.
As a result of Kelly’s case, the NHS altered one of their websites which had previously said HELLP syndrome could only occur at 20 weeks or later.
Kelly says: “When I came out of hospital and started researching it, I saw the NHS said it could not happen before 20 weeks and I am living proof that it can. I was still so poorly for the next few weeks and because it wasn’t a miscarriage and it wasn’t a full-time stillbirth I didn’t know know to feel. Five years on I am still a bit baffled by it all.”
Kelly and David went on to have a son, Jake, who is now three.
Kelly says: “There was a greater than normal risk for me but I was monitored carefully and I had the same consultant and midwife, which was nice.”
The couple now want to raise awareness of the rare killer illness. The main symptoms of HELLP syndrome are similar to those found in pre-eclampsia.
Kelly says: “I had aches and sickness and blurred vision, a feeling of indigestion and pains across the shoulder blades, which is a sign of liver problems.
“The medical symptoms are high blood pressure and protein in urine.”
The pair hope to raise £1,500 to help refurbish the bereavement room at the maternity unit at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary after being told by the bereavement midwife Celia Sykes that they are trying to fund-raise to revamp, update and decorate the room, which allows people to spend final precious moments with their babies and gives them somewhere to be cared for during and after devastating events.
Kelly explains: “We are hoping to raise £1,500 towards the refurbishment.
“I was in the delivery suite for four days because they didn’t know where else to put me so they could monitor me.
“On the final day I was put into the bereavement room. At the time I wasn’t really taking any of it in.
“We thought it would be quite fitting with it being the five-year anniversary and to celebrate me still being alive because I so nearly wasn’t.”
Kelly has previously raised money for Tommy’s charity and David did the 2013 London Marathon.
He will also be running Hadrian’s Wall on the weekend of May 20, while Kelly is planning to take part in a 10km run on June 4 followed by the two-mile Great North Swim on June 11. David is then doing an ultra marathon in the Lakes on July 1.
To support Kelly and David, you can donate to the cause at: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/RLImaternity
You can also visit Kelly’s Facebook support page which is called HELLP syndrome angels.