South Australian mum of three Natasha Angie and her partner John Shaw were holidaying in the US when the pregnant 28-year-old developed HELLP syndrome. After being rushed to hospital, the mum delivered her baby stillborn (she was only 26-weeks pregnant at the time).
Following delivery, Natasha’s kidneys and heart began to shut down. Tragically, the Murray Bridge mum passed away at the hospital in Las Vegas, Nevada on May 15th.
With three other children at home, Natasha’s partner John is in the process of trying to get both her and the baby back to Australia together so they can say their final goodbyes. Given the medical and travel costs, the family has set up a Go Fund Me campaign to raise $50,000 to cover the medical costs
The couple had travel insurance but it is unclear still if it will cover repatriation of the stillborn baby and of course the family are wanting their mother and son to return home in the same casket.
Besides the repatriation transport costs, the funds will also be used to help the couple’s three other children, Kyeesha, 10, Josiah, 8, and Jacquon, 3.
So what happened to this young mum exactly, and why did her vacation to Las Vegas go so horribly wrong?
According to Australian Action on Pre-Eclampsia (AAPEC), HELLP syndrome is a serious complication that results in blood and liver problems for mum. The acronym HELLP stands for Haemolysis (red blood cell damage), EL (elevated liver enzymes) and LP (low platelets).
Pre-eclampsia itself is a pregnancy complication that is characterised by three major symptoms:
- Excessive swelling
- Protein in the urine, and
- High blood pressure.
Affecting between 5% – 10% of Australian pregnancies, pre-eclampsia can cause severe health issues if left unchecked. This includes kidney failure, liver failure, convulsions or seizures, clotting problems and even death.
Not every case of pre-eclampsia results in HELLP. Some cases of HELLP don’t even present in the same way that pre-eclampsia does. Some of the common signs and symptoms of HELLP include pain in the upper abdomen (the liver area), vomiting and headache. Both pre-eclampsia and HELLP typically don’t come on until the second half of a woman’s pregnancy.
The only treatment for HELLP syndrome is delivery. Medications such as corticosteroids may be given to mum in order to help baby’s lungs mature enough for delivery. Mum may also need transfusions of blood products as part of her recovery and treatment. The stillbirth rate for babies of mum’s with HELLP is 51 out of every 1,000 pregnancies, according to the Preeclampsia Foundation. Unfortunately, Natasha’s case falls into this statistic.
Unborn babies of mum’s with pre-eclampsia (and related conditions) may suffer oxygen starvation, as blood flow to the placenta slows. This can slow growth and become life-threatening.
Sadly, there is nothing that the young mum could have done to prevent this tragedy. While keeping up on regular prenatal visits and staying healthy (being active and eating nutritious meals) helps, even the most fit mums can develop HELLP. Knowing the warning signs of pre-eclampsia and HELLP can help to get an early diagnosis and quicker treatment. That said, in some cases (such as Natasha’s) treatment can’t come quick enough.
If you have any of the symptoms (such as severe headache or abdominal pain that doesn’t go away with any of the usual treatments) or just don’t feel right, contact a medical professional immediately – especially if you’re in the second half of your pregnancy.