When 27-year-old Becca, a children’s director at a local church, and her husband, Garrett, learned in the spring of 2015 they were expecting a baby, they were caught off guard.
“It was a surprise, but a good one,” Becca says. “I had an uneventful pregnancy.”
Becca’s water broke around 2 a.m., and she and Garrett rushed to CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital – New Braunfels. She received a drug to jump-start contractions and later had an epidural. She pushed for about two hours before baby Eleanor entered the world at 5:45 p.m. “Garrett and I had decided not to find out the sex of the baby until birth, so it was a fun moment when the nurse put Eleanor on my chest and I learned she was a girl,” Becca says. “After that, we got situated in the room for the night, and family and friends came in to visit. We went to bed around 11 p.m. That is basically the last thing I remember until I went home.”
In the Grip of Complication
During the middle of the night, Garrett awoke to the sound of Becca’s bed shaking. She was having a seizure. When a new-onset seizure occurs during pregnancy or the postpartum period, it’s called eclampsia. Usually, pre-eclampsia — a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure, among other symptoms — leads to eclampsia, but not in Becca’s case.
“Typically, with preeclampsia, we see a constellation of things, including high blood pressure and excessive protein in the urine,” says Becca’s OB/GYN, Kevin Blair, M.D., director of women’s health at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital – New Braunfels. “Becca didn’t fit the bill. Her blood pressure went up a bit after the seizure, which is not unusual. Did her blood pressure go up and make her have the seizure or did the seizure make her blood pressure go up? It’s hard to say. Atypical eclampsia is the best way to describe what she experienced.”
The medical team transferred Becca to the intensive care unit, where she received intravenous anticonvulsant medication to treat the seizure. Dr. Blair and Bryan Fisk, M.D., critical care physician at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital – New Braunfels, worked with Becca’s primary care provider and the nursing team to treat her.
“My job was to try to keep Becca from having more seizures, treat them and protect her airway if any occurred, and address her high blood pressure,” Dr. Fisk says.
“Fortunately, she didn’t have additional seizures. We performed a battery of blood and imaging tests to rule out causes other than eclampsia.” Becca, Garrett and Eleanor went home on Monday. Becca was fine, although her memory remained fuzzy for a few weeks. The treatment she received at the hospital isn’t what she’s most grateful for — it’s the compassion the medical team showed her entire family.
“No one lost sight of Eleanor, in spite of everything that was going on with me,” Becca says. “The physicians and nurses pulled together as a team and did what was best, not only for me, but for my daughter. They pumped breast milk from me and held her to my chest so she could feed while I was unconscious. I’m so grateful for that. Mentally, I wasn’t around for the first 24 hours of Eleanor’s life, and I would have been disappointed if I’d lost that opportunity to breastfeed. The hospital allowed my mother-in-law to stay in the postpartum room with Eleanor so Garrett and my mother could be with me. Everyone took care of my family’s and my emotional health as much as my physical health. I think that’s pretty unique.”