In August 2020, a young mother shared a heartbreaking story regarding the death of her 2-day-old baby. Her seemingly healthy baby was born with Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy. The condition occurs when the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen and can happen during pregnancy or labor and delivery. Beginning with a trigger warning, she tells her story.
Unsuspecting RN Eventually Faces HIE
Registered Nurse Alexandra and her husband unexpectedly found themselves pregnant. Her pregnancy had gone had been healthy and smooth. The pair planned to welcome a “perfect” baby boy into the world. Alexandra had worked all throughout her pregnancy and planned to continue to do so to term. However, at 37 weeks along, she began to feel unwell.
She noticed flecks in her vision while reading the computer charts at work. She began vomiting, becoming shaky and lightheaded. When Alexandra finally had a moment to check her blood pressure, she noted it was sky high, and it was time to contact her doctor.
After a few hours in the Labor and Delivery unit, she was sent home with a cup to collect a urine sample. They did one last check-up and found that everything was normal. After a few days, her doctor told her that she was, in fact, positive for preeclampsia. At 37 weeks, she was confident that baby Wells would be fine.
She contacted her husband, and 26 hours later, she was induced. She was informed that baby Wells “looked perfect,” and so did her contraction pattern, meaning the pair would be meeting their son within hours.
Read: Mother describes first moments meeting her child with Pfeiffer Syndrome
Learning of the HIE Diagnosis
Two hours later, baby Wells still hadn’t made his way into the world, and they settled on a C-section. Finally, Wells was delivered, although he didn’t cry at all. Needless to say, it caused some commotion before intubating the baby. Wells had a heartbeat but wasn’t breathing on his own, nor did he have any muscle tone or gag reflex. Baby Wells was taken before he met his parents, and they anxiously waited for a “lifetime” to be updated on his condition.
Finally, someone informed them that “some C-section babies are born in shock and require a little bit of extra respiratory support overnight to help them recover.” Although at the time Wells was still alive, he’d been diagnosed with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. His pupils were non-responsive, his blood sugar was alarmingly low, and his kidneys and liver weren’t functioning properly. “I will never forget this doctor standing next to me, telling us what we always knew as our perfectly healthy baby was now fighting for his life,” Alexandra explained.
Rebuilding from Heartbreak
Within 48 hours, Alexandra and her husband would face unimaginable heartbreak. Baby Wells had passed away due to complications from hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. Although Alexandra spent the next few months living in a foggy cloud of existence, she eventually found a path that would allow her to always honor the baby she only held for a short time. She founded a company called Alexandra & Wells, an apparel store that also helps families honor their babies who’ve prematurely passed away.
Causes of the Generally Non-Fatal Condition
Although Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy is a common ailment, it’s rarely fatal. However, it can have a severe impact on organ function and development. Interestingly, some children have no long-term impact from HIE at all. Meanwhile, others may suffer from developmental delays, motor impairment, epilepsy, or cognitive impairment. HIE has many causes
However, HIE can also become apparent and problematic during labor and delivery. During this phase of pregnancy, HIE-related complications can include trouble with the umbilical cord, such as being wrapped around the baby’s neck—and problems with the uterus or placenta, such as rupturing, causing excessive bleeding. Abnormal fetal position and mom’s low blood pressure have also been known to cause HIE-related complications. Post-birth causes of HIE include serious infections or disease of the heart or lungs, including going into cardiac arrest or facing respiratory failure. Lastly, HIE can happen due to trauma that occurred to the brain during pregnancy or delivery.
Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy sadly took the life of a sweet little baby boy. However, his mom was resourceful enough to turn her heartbreak into a way to both generate income and support other parents struggling with a similar kind of unimaginable heartbreak. Fortunately, the condition isn’t fatal in many cases but can, in some cases, have a long-lasting impact. Nothing is more terrifying as a parent than to know something is happening to your baby without knowing what that is.
Luckily, most birthing plans include several experts and professionals who can not only offer their support and guidance but have enough experience with these instances to be able to diagnose and treat as soon as possible, hopefully minimizing long-term complications.
Keep Reading: Family is sharing their story of tragic loss to raise awareness about allergies
- “I Held My ‘Perfectly Healthy’ Baby as He Took His Last Breath at 2 Days Old.” Cafe Mom 2020
- “Neonatal Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy.” Nationwide Children’s
- “Neonatal hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy.” UCSF
- “Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy.” Med Scape Santina A Zanelli. July 18, 2018