Parents' joy after pre-eclampsia loss

Philippa and Glenn Coulson with Samuel, seven months. Picture: Neil Richardson
Philippa and Glenn Coulson with Samuel, seven months. Picture: Neil Richardson

MICHAEL Coulson was born at 18 weeks and five days, he would have been four years old this year.

One Monday in July 2011, Philippa Coulson, of Launceston, woke up in severe pain; she thought her gallbladder had ruptured.

Mrs Coulson was just over 18 weeks pregnant with her first child and had been to the doctor for a check-up the day before.

She had not felt quite right for weeks, but thought it was simply just another part of being pregnant.

By the time Mrs Coulson had arrived at the hospital on Tuesday, her entire body had already started to shut down.

Doctors had told her husband, Glenn, that it would be a good sign if she was still alive on the Friday.

Although she was just 18 weeks pregnant, Mrs Coulson was forced to deliver her baby on July 11, 2011, but Michael had already died.

"We went in on Tuesday night and they said that if I made it to Friday that would be a good thing, that was when I was only 18 weeks pregnant," Mrs Coulson said.

"I was slipping in and out of consciousness and my husband was being told by the doctor that his wife would probably die.

"Within a day, my baby had been born at 18 weeks and he had already passed away."

Mrs Coulson was suffering from pre-eclampsia, a disorder that only occurs during pregnancy.

According to the Australian Action on Pre-Eclampsia group, in 1 per cent of all pregnancies, the disorder is severe enough to threaten the lives of both the mother and her unborn child.

Pre-eclampsia can cause high blood pressure, thinning of the blood and liver dysfunction and the only cure is for the baby to be delivered with the placenta, leading to premature births in many cases.

In 2014, Mrs Coulson fell pregnant with her second baby and this time around, her doctors were looking out for the disorder from day one.

But even with the extra precautions, she was diagnosed for a second time and was told that her child would not make it to 24 weeks.

It was an exciting day when Mrs Coulson passed the 24-week mark in the pregnancy, but just five weeks later, things began to change.

"At 29 weeks I went in feeling really nauseated, bad headaches and my blood pressure had reached 210 over 170 so they had to fly me down to Hobart straight away," she said.

"I had an emergency caesarean and then my son spent 96 days in the [neonatal intensive care unit]."

Mrs Coulson's second son, Samuel, was born on January 12 this year weighing just 1062 grams.

"He had a lot of other issues, two weeks after he was born they discovered he had a restricted bowel so they had to operate and take out the bowel," she said.

"He had a double hernia so they had to operate again and then he would refuse to eat so he was on a tube for a while."

More than three months after he was born, Mr and Mrs Coulson were told they could finally take their son home; it was an emotional day for everyone.

"It was very nice bringing him home and to actually have him in my house, especially after my first pregnancy."

Today, Samuel is seven months old and weighs in at five kilograms.

Belinda Rees with daughters Jessica, 4, and Chloe, 18 months, prepare for the Pre-eclampsia Awareness Walk on Sunday.

Belinda Rees with daughters Jessica, 4, and Chloe, 18 months, prepare for the Pre-eclampsia Awareness Walk on Sunday.

Mrs Coulson had one piece of advice for all mothers out there - it was better to be safe than sorry.

"If you feel funny, get it checked out; I felt off and sick for weeks and kept telling myself that it was just part of being pregnant," she said.

"If I had been checked out weeks earlier, I wouldn't have been so close to death.

"I didn't know until it was too late."

FOR the first time, the Pre-eclampsia Awareness Walk will be held in Launceston Sunday.

Run through the Australian Action on Pre-Eclampsia group, families across the nation will take to the streets in several separate walks in an effort to raise awareness of this disorder.

Launceston mother Belinda Rees organised the local event after she suffered severe pre-eclampsia during both of her pregnancies.

She is now determined to spread the word on pre-eclampsia, on its symptoms and the effects it can have on both the mother and the child.

"We just want people to know what the signs and symptoms are and that they should not hesitate about going to the doctor," she said.

"I'm really looking forward to the event and looking forward to meeting up with the mums that I haven't met before.

"I'm definitely feeling ready to go at the moment, my main concern is the weather."

Mrs Rees said that one day, she would like to set up a support group for mothers who have suffered from pre-eclampsia, whether they are living with it or have conquered the disorder in the past.

"I would love to get a bit of a support group happening, even if it's just on Facebook or meeting up once a month," she said.

"Once you leave hospital, you've still got all of those emotions for a long, long time and it's easy to feel isolated.

"It's great to have that communication with other mums who know what you're going through."

The Pre-eclampsia Awareness Walk will be held on August 23 at Launceston's Royal Park at 11am.

The community is invited to wear purple for the event.


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