BY PETRE WILLIAMS-RAYNOR Career & Education editor firstname.lastname@example.org
IT'S been a long road back from pre-eclampsia for Nurse Ucallee Watson Glenister, who lost one of her children to the dreaded disorder and with it the hope of having any others.
Fortunately, sheis mother to two older children — a son, Shanue, 18, and a daughter, Shanice, 15 — who she said are her pride and joy. They, and her husband Devroy, are the reason she was able to cling to life after pre-eclampsia struck four years ago.
"What happened to me was that the protein in my urine and blood pressure started rising. I [also] started to swell. One weekend I was at home, I got a stroke on my left side and when I went into the hospital, they advised me that I had [pre-eclampsia] and that they were going to try and see how they can save the baby. However, they said I am their priority," she told the Jamaica Observer.
What followed was pretty standard for women who turn up to hospital with pre-eclampsia — one of the hypertensive disorders that affects pregnant women, and which has claimed the lives of some 28 of them in Jamaica in the last five years, according to Ministry of Health statistics.
Watson Glenister — a nurse of more than a decade — was put on medication to help her baby's lungs mature even as she was given blood pressure medication and painful magnesium sulphate injections to prevent further seizures. When it came time for the delivery of her baby — a little girl — doctors contemplated a Caesarian section, but given the extent to which her body had swollen due to oedema they opted to deliver her naturally, the nurse said.
Watson Glenister can hardly recall the birth, but is clear on the fact that when she came fully to consciousness, her child had not survived.
"My husband didn't take it very well at all. They had problems taking back the baby from him after showing her to him," she recalled. "I heard that he broke down in tears."
And even as her husband went through that ordeal, the medical team fought to save her life.
"They had me there monitoring me and kept sedating me. One day I was as there and I heard them saying something like, 'she is haemorrhaging'. They had to give me two bags of plasma with a bag of 1,000 mg normal saline. They had to rehydrate me a bit [with the saline] and they gave me the plasma because I needed blood," she said.
Eventually, her blood pressure was controlled, and she was moved from the intensive care unit.
"My greatest problem started when they took me from intensive care and put me on the ward where they had the ladies with their babies," Watson Glenister said. "I kept seeing them with their babies and I don't have a baby. And there was this lady who every time she goes to the bathroom, she asked me to give an eye to the baby. And then when she came back, she took the baby."
The stress of that caused her blood pressure to soar.
"My blood pressure kept going up and they had to be giving me something to sleep for me to rest properly," she said.
But she could not remain in hospital and checked herself out.
"I found myself out of the hospital and went to my doctor. He was really upset with me," Watson Glenister said. "But if I had stayed, I felt I would have died."
However, while being at home helped her escape the mommies and babies on the ward at the hospital, it was hell coping with day-to-day life.
"I slept in the days, but couldn't sleep at nights because every time I try to sleep I kept seeing the baby crying and I woke up crying," Watson Glenister said. "I was even scared to go on the road for a while, because I didn't want to see anybody pregnant."
She became a virtual recluse as a result.
"I just shut myself away for a few months," she said. "I started coming out like within two months [after leaving the hospital]. My husband started taking me out to the mall and then one month-end — that would make it fully two months — he took me down to Starfish Hotel for a weekend. That helped a lot. After I came back, I spent another month inside."
After those two months, Watson Glenister said she finally began to feel up to seeing people.
"I went to my doctor and he told me I could go back to work, but that if I couldn't manage, I should just go home," she said. "But while at work, several times I had breakdowns because patients who knew me and knew that I was pregnant kept coming to me to ask me 'What type of baby do you have?' or 'How is the baby?' And they just kept coming."
"When that happens, it is just like something inside you erupts again, stirring up all these feelings of loss. And with me, the biggest thing was knowing that I cannot 'go back'," a sad Watson said further.
According to the nurse, she had a blighted ovum, which had caused her to lose two pregnancies before she had pre-eclampsia.
"They said I had developed a disease in my womb where it keep aborting the babies when they reached a certain term. Once it reach a certain term, my body just stopped nourishing the baby," she told the Sunday Observer.
Despite this, and two miscarriages, Watson Glenister said she and her husband had decided to try once more, in part because of her daughter's desire for a younger sibling.
"My daughter wanted a little sister so we were just trying to have this one," she noted.
After pre-eclampsia — which can occur from as early as 20 weeks in a woman's pregnancy, and which is likely to recur, though not as severely as before — her doctors cautioned her against further efforts to conceive.
"The doctors advised me not to try again. They told me that if I 'go back', this time I may lose my life," said Watson Glenister, whose blood pressure returned to normal only after about three months after she delivered.
However, even after those three months, she still had to
"My mind was still not that settled. It took me almost a year before I started sleeping at nights," said Watson Glenister, now 37.
To help her cope with her loss, the nurse said she hangs on to a single item of her baby's clothes — a white onesie.
"My husband doesn't even know that I have it. I keep it in my clothes draw. Every now and again, I will be folding clothes and I take it up and hold it for a little while. Even though she didn't get to put it on, I know it is hers," she said.
Still, on or around July 10 — the day her child was born — is a time Watson Glenister becomes depressed.
"It was just [four] weeks ago that I was as saying to my husband that I don't like this time of the year. He asked why and I told him. He asked, 'why you have to keep bringing that thing up?" she said. "I tell him I can't forget her. And so every year, this time of the year, I start to get depressed and moody."
Thoughts of her two living children are what help her through those days.
"These two [children] are my lifeline. They are my reasons to exist. I am so proud of them. My son recently graduated from [St] George's [College] with nine subjects. He just finished lower sixth form and going into upper sixth in September. We are waiting
his Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations results now," she said.
"My daughter came sixth out of a class of 40 at Bridgeport High," added the proud mum.
Meanwhile, Dr Sharmaine Mitchell, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the University Hospital of the West Indies, has indicated that nurse Watson Glenister's reaction to the loss of her child was not unusual and that many women who have had
pre-eclampsia have a
"The big thing is depression; in most cases, that is the biggest problem that you really find. And then sometimes you have to do like a Caesarian section and that is worse because they [mothers] get a cut and there is no baby to show," Mitchell told the Sunday Observer.
The doctor noted that women in this situation are typically provided with counselling.
"We have a group or we get the psychologist or sometimes even the psychiatrist to help with the counselling. Some patients are fine, and if they have good support from the spouse, then they are ok," she noted. "Sometimes reassurance from the regular doctors works. Outside of that, depending on the degree of depression, then we might have to get the psychologist to come in."