I was just 24 weeks’ pregnant when my organs started to fail from HELLP

’You have severe preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome - we are going to have to deliver your baby tonight.’

Charity fundraising stories, 09/02/2017, by Tommy's guest blogger Leigh Kendall 

Following the loss of her baby boy Hugo, Leigh Kendall has worked to raise awareness of premature birth, pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome.

Hugo's third birthday is approaching and Leigh has taken on a special fundraising challenge to mark it.

The Awesomeness Challenge

by Leigh Kendall

'You have severe preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome, we are going to have to deliver your baby tonight.'

These were the chilling words from an obstetric consultant. My partner and I were sobbing at the prospect of the loss of our much-wanted first baby.

I had been sent to the hospital by my community midwife a few hours earlier because of concerns for my blood pressure, and high levels of protein in my urine that were discovered during a routine appointment.

I was just 24 weeks’ pregnant.

My partner and I were utterly devastated. I had been feeling unwell for a few days with what I thought were heartburn and weight gain: general pregnancy discomforts. It turned out they were symptoms of HELLP syndrome: my organs were starting to fail.

I had no idea preeclampsia could strike so early, and I had never even heard of HELLP syndrome.

Thankfully, I stabilised and my baby was able to hold on in my tummy for a few more precious days until sadly my condition became critical. Doctors were especially worried about my blood pressure: I was at risk of having a stroke.

My son Hugo was born by emergency Caesarean section on Thursday 20th February 2014. He weighed just 420 grams – less than a pound. I woke up from a general anaesthetic in intensive care, while Hugo was fighting for his own life in the neonatal intensive care unit at the other end of the hospital.

Hugo was 36 hours old before I had an opportunity to meet him. It was a rush of pure love at first sight: he was so very perfect. His daddy and I helped with his cares, read him stories, sang him songs, and enjoyed cuddles.

Our beautiful boy was a feisty fighter, and earned the nickname Hugo Boss from his nurses.

Sadly Hugo was too small and premature, and died in my arms aged 35 days.

The three years since Hugo’s death have been full of challenges. Not only have I been trying to deal with grief following the loss of my precious boy, but also the trauma of also losing my own life.

For a long time I lived with the additional torment of believing that it was my fault that Hugo died: I thought that the HELLP syndrome was some kind of failing on my part, and that I ‘consented’ to the emergency C-section to save my own life at the expense of his. I was also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

During the past three years I have been raising awareness of HELLP syndrome, premature babies, and life after baby loss through my blog Headspace Perspective. It’s Hugo’s Legacy.

One of the key messages of my blog is that life after loss is really, really tough, but it is possible.

For Hugo’s third birthday, which is also the third anniversary of the day I nearly died, I wanted to do something special that demonstrated these things while raising money to help other families like mine.

Exercise has helped me manage my PTSD symptoms, so I came up with the idea of the Awesomeness Challenge. It’s a fitness challenge to celebrate life, and raise awareness.

For example, I am doing a 420 metre run – Hugo weighed 420 grams when he was born; 36 kettle bell goblet squats to represent the number of hours I spent in intensive care; a 2013 metre row is for my very high (200/130) blood pressure; and 16 rainbow slams represent how premature, in weeks, Hugo was.

For more information and the full list of the exercises I will be doing for the challenge at my local gym on 20 February see my JustGiving page.

You can also donate by text by sending the code HCDP90 and your amount £x to 70070.

If you want to show Leigh your support, you can make a donation to her fundraising page here.

Leigh is doing regular training updates on her Instagram account, follow her progress here.