Monday, December 29, 2014

What is Hyperemesis?

Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Have you heard of it? Simply put, it is extreme morning sickness. It's not the food aversions, waves of nausea that come and go, or occasional vomiting in the first trimester like "average" morning sickness.
It is non-stop, debilitating nausea to the point where you're afraid to move, speak over a whisper, burp, hiccup, sneeze, cough, or exhale with too much vigor because it very well may trigger a bout of violent and uncontrollable vomiting or dry heaving, no matter if there's a single drop of food or liquid in your stomach.
It is a feeling of extreme dizziness like motion sickness where the slightest movement(either your own body, your head, a TV, computer screen, or creature in front of you) triggers intense vertigo and nausea to the point that you sometimes just sit with your eyes closed and try not to move while breathing very shallow and slowly for what seems like hours just hoping to hold it together.
It is being triggered by the slightest smells no matter how good or how bad into instant and uncontrollable vomiting and heaving, no matter how full or empty your stomach is.
It is being constantly so physically weak from the exhaustion of all the fore-mentioned that you literally shake uncontrollably due to fatigue, and fall asleep mid-sentence if you dare to speak while sitting down, and your memory is non-existent because your brain is overwhelmed and struggling just to function much less remember anything. Nearly every day you want to just collapse and sob at how awful you feel, but you force yourself to hold back because the tears and snot rolling down the back of your throat will trigger more forceful vomiting and heaving episodes.
In short- every day is a literal struggle to survive. You don't know nausea until you've had HG, and most people(thank God) will never experience this debilitating level of it. With my last pregnancy I was in literal kidney failure by 9 weeks pregnant from the constant dehydration due to the constant vomiting and heaving.
The treatment? Giving birth. Don't suggest ginger ale, crackers, Emetrol, or fresh mango to some one with HG. If they have the energy they may well punch you. Don't think we haven't tried every single thing repeatedly in hopes of getting some relief. The one remedy that helps some: Zofran. A medication made for chemo patients to make them physically unable to vomit. It works, but it does nothing for every single other bit of the HG symptoms, like the debilitating nausea, vertigo, headaches, etc, and it has a boatload of horrible side effects it adds to the party.
For some with HG there are bright spots. The occasional hour or two in a day where the symptoms are not completely overwhelming and debilitating, and they can get up, move, and struggle to do everything in their face that is screaming for attention in the art of survival. Those brief moments, if they happen for HG sufferers, are filled with dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, pay bills, or popping their head into email or the like and saying, 'Hey, I'm alive!' because the minuscule human connection makes us feel slightly further from deaths door step. Or maybe they take five minutes while listening to their six-year-old reading from his history text to write a quick blog letting others know exactly what hell they're enduring, in hopes that some day, somewhere, some one might stumble across the post and it will give them some compassion and patience for some one in their life dealing with HG.
What we most often DO NOT think of are weeks-old commitments we've failed to fulfill, phone calls we should have made to honor birthdays we forgot in the hellish haze, or anything else people around us may think seems obvious but have completely dropped by the way side of survival for us and our families, even in those bright spots.
So if you know some one with HG, be kind. Be understanding. Be compassionate. Maybe even mentally acknowledge that you have no concept of what they're actually dealing with, and give them some extra grace. This is not 'bad morning sickness.' This is like extreme motion sickness and food poisoning all rolled into one that lasts anywhere from 4 to 9 months straight, 24 hours a day.
If you're one of the few who knows an HG sufferer and HAS been that sweet, grace-filled, supportive, loving, patient presence in their lives, we thank you more than we have the strength to say in a year. You are few and far between. Just don't ever tell us to try ginger ale, saltines, or protein. Ever. Because we've done it and thrown it all back up a thousand times over.

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