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Jennifer's HuGStory

My name is Jennifer Johansson. I absolutely cannot believe there are women out there who have heard about HG, let alone have had it, and I'm shocked that there is a website devoted to it! I used to think I was a freak, that my pregnancies were just extremely unusual.

My first experience with Hyperemesis was when I was 6 years old. My mother was pregnant with my sister, her third child. She had had HG with her two previous pregnancies as well, but neither of us ever heard the term Hyperemesis until decades later. I remember my Mom staying in bed during her entire pregnancy and me having to take care of my 2-year-old sister and my Mom during the day when I wasn't in school. My sister and I would watch t.v. or play in the family room, left on our own until our dad came home. I remember even more vividly her last pregnancy when I was eleven. She stayed on the couch in her flannel nightgown throughout the whole pregnancy and took Bendectine to keep the vomiting at bay, though it did nothing for the nausea. She would say over and over, "I hope none of you girls have pregnancies like mine when you grow up."

Fast forward to 1994. My husband and I had been married for four months when I suddenly realized I hadn't gotten my period and was in fact a week late. I took a test and was surprised to find it was positive! We were a little thrown because it was so early in our marriage but we were excited. I had had some problems with endometriosis in my teens and hadn't even been sure if I were able to conceive. A few days after we found out we were pregnant, the nausea started. I began taking crackers and tea bags to work, and that worked for about two days and then mashed potatoes were all I could keep down. My poor husband even left work one day at 9:00 in the morning to drive all around town trying to find a restaurant that had mashed potatoes at that time of the day. Eventually I began vomiting and none of the tricks were working. I tried it all: ginger ale, seltzer water, saltines, raspberry tea, chicken broth, sipping water before I sat up, eating dry crackers in bed, etc. After a week of suffering (and after begging my husband to smother me with his pillow one awful night) my mother said, "You'd better call your doctor." We were new to the area so I had just kind of picked the first doctor I found that worked out of the hospital I wanted. At my first visit, he noticed I looked rather...uh..."peaked" to use an understatement and he tested my urine. It was full of ketones and I was badly dehydrated. I was admitted into the hospital that afternoon.

In the hospital they set up an IV to get me rehydrated saying I would feel much better once my fluids were up and they kept pushing all kinds of food on me. Everything they made me eat, I threw up. After three days on IV fluids I stopped vomiting but was still unable to eat. They sent me home telling me to eat small frequent meals. Two days later I was back in the hospital, dehydrated again. Again, they put an IV in, and encouraged me to eat whatever sounded good. Three days later, my fluids were just about back to normal when I began vomiting again and somehow managed to get dehydrated again while on IV fluids! This horrible cycle lasted for a month. Looking back now I realize how little knowledge my doctors had. They had never seen a case like mine and didn't know what to do with me. I had managed to do some research and found that my condition actually had a name--Hyperemesis Gravidarum. None of my doctors nor any of my nurses had ever heard of it. Remembering my mother's experience I asked about antiemetic drugs. My doctors refused saying I would harm my baby. They kept putting my in the hospital on an IV and sending me home only to get dehydrated and wind up in the hospital again.

After a whole month of this they decided to try PPN, which is where they hooked up some kind of formula with about 500 calories in it or so to my IV to feed me. At the same time they decided to try some drugs. The first, Tigan(sp) did nothing. The next, Compazine, gave me a horrible allergic reaction. It made every muscle in my body painfully spasm and contract for hours until I was physically exhausted and the nurses were afraid I'd pass out. A family friend suggested I ask about a drug called Phenergan but my doctors said I wouldn't be able to tolerate it as it only comes in oral and suppository form.

When I was about 11 weeks pregnant I went to visit my parents. Over that weekend, I began vomiting uncontrollably again. By this time, I had thrown up all the bile and saliva my body could make. I would either throw up blood or just dry heave--I was vomiting every ten minutes. I wound up being admitted through the emergency room into the hospital near my parents' home, which was in a different state than where my husband and I lived. I got up onto the Maternity floor and heard a nurse say, "So, you've got Hyperemesis. I bet you feel just awful!" Could it be? Did someone actually know what Hyperemesis was? I was ordered on NPO, nothing by mouth, another thing that shocked me. In the other hospital I was urged to eat, eat, eat from the moment I arrived. And here I was forbidden anything by mouth, even ice chips, until the vomiting had subsided. When I woke the next morning, I saw a different bag on my IV pole and asked what I was being given and was floored when the nurse told me the attending doctor had ordered Phenergan to be given by IV! They hadn't even asked me! They knew what to do and I didn't have to tell them! It was the first time in almost two months that I didn't feel sick. I called my sister at home and asked her to sneak a cheese steak into my room. It was heavenly.

The attending doctor was nothing less than an angel. He had experience dealing with and treating my condition and wasn't phased by it in the least. I remember his first words to me, "Good morning. You look like dog s***." In three days I felt better than I ever had and left the hospital with a prescription for Phenergan in my hot little hands. I immediately took it to my doctors and said, "I've been taking this orally for a week. Please fill this prescription." They reluctantly agreed but every two weeks when the prescription ran out they would argue with me about taking it again. Once I was into the 2nd trimester they kept saying, "You shouldn't be feeling this way still." and I would say, "Yes, but I am. Your my doctor. Help me." I would have to start throwing up again to prove to them that I still needed the medication. At one point they even sent a psychiatrist to look at me who asked all kinds of questions like, "Have you ever been anorexic or bulimic? Have you ever been treated for depression with medication? What is your marriage like?" I was so upset and so offended. I also had to go to countless visits with a gastroenterologist to check my gallbladder, liver, etc. The GE guy was so disgusted with my drs for sending me to him when it was obvious to him there was nothing wrong with me other than the HG. He even gave me the prescription for the Phenergan for the last three months when my doctors finally refused to renew my prescription any longer.

Phenergan was a life saver but as a sedative, made me really sleepy and groggy. It also tastes horrible and sometimes I would throw up because of it. Even on the drug I had to be extremely careful to get enough rest and not let my stomach get empty or the vomiting would start all over again. In my seventh month I was able to wean myself off of the medication. My daughter was born a week past her due date in June of '95 weighing 7 lbs 8 oz. Within hours of delivery I felt great.

I am currently pregnant with my fourth baby. I have had HG with every single pregnancy. It was not so bad in my second pregnancy, but I still needed the Phenergan to get me through. I was only hospitalized once for dehydration, was able to wean off of it by the sixth month and best of all, had moved closer to my parents and was able to switch to the doctor who had ordered the Phenergan in my IV in the first place. In my third pregnancy, the HG started earlier as it had in my first and I was only hospitalized once, but this time we tried the drug Zofran. It was eerie how well it worked. It took half as much to work as well as the Phenergan and didn't make me sleepy. But it did make me horribly constipated and at one point it stopped working for no reason for about a week and then started to work again.

Now in this fourth pregnancy I am six weeks and back on the Phenergan. This time I was sick at only three weeks, before I even knew I was pregnant (I thought I had a stomach bug) and my doctor gave me my prescription at my very first visit at only four weeks. I have been camped out on the couch for a week now and am working on getting myself through the next 34 weeks. I'm a horrible burden to my husband and 5-year-old daughter (the two pregnancies between her and this one ended in losses) and get awfully bored and stir-crazy, but it's all worth every minute of it in the end. By now we're pros at this and we know what we're doing. Our goal with this pregnancy is to avoid being in the hospital for HG and to keep me from throwing up even once. We'll see. To anyone suffering from HG, fight for help. If your doctors won't do anything, switch. There is help out there, you just have to be the squeaky wheel.

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