Author: Surviving Kate Middleton’s pregnancy disease was a test of faith

ARTHUR EDWARDS AP Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, centre, plays hockey during her visit to St. Andrew’s School, where she … Continued

ARTHUR EDWARDS

AP

Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, centre, plays hockey during her visit to St. Andrew’s School, where she attended school from 1986 to 1995, in Pangbourne, England on Nov. 30, 2012.

When I heard the news that the Duchess of Cambridge, formerly Kate Middleton was less than 12 weeks pregnant and hospitalized for “extreme morning sickness,” I prayed that she was spared the mistreatment that so many sufferers of the same rare illness, hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), have endured.

Often others suggest that we must be exaggerating our symptoms, tell us to “eat crackers and drink ginger ale,” and fail to diagnose our HG until we are so ill as to need hospitalization. That’s what happened to me when I suffered HG for the first time—and the consequences were devastating.

I was 25 years old and pregnant with my first child. Even though the pregnancy was unplanned, it brought me and my husband tremendous unplanned joy. Early, however, it was clear that something was wrong. My morning sickness wasn’t just in the morning—it was all day, every day.


View Photo Gallery: The royal couple’s future heir to join the legion of famous royals from various nations.

When I kept telling my doctor that I was nauseous all the time and vomiting too much, she thought I was being dramatic. She told me I needed to eat more and that I would be fine. But by the time I was three months into the pregnancy, it was clear that something was seriously wrong. My doctor at the time failed to properly hydrate me and provide parenteral nutrition. These things were necessary and available in my case, but I was naïve. I didn’t know that I could be fed through a PICC line or hydrated in my home. I simply wasn’t told.

Without the proper care, by four months into the pregnancy, I had lost 14 percent of my total body weight. I couldn’t eat or drink. I had liver dysfunction and jaundice. Starved and dehydrated, I began to have visual and auditory hallucinations.

Ultimately, I couldn’t work, walk, hold a conversation, read, watch TV, sit up, or do anything but lie still. Otherwise, I would vomit. There were no nausea-free periods, and life was a living nightmare.

As if HG wasn’t bad enough my doctor and her colleagues, always suspicious of the unplanned nature of my pregnancy, decided my illness must be psychosomatic: my body was, they said, unconsciously rebelling against an “unwanted” child. So they totally disregarded my and my husband’s desire for our baby.

My husband couldn’t help me. He thought I was either going to die or suffer permanent physical and emotional damage. Everyone around us was telling us how abnormal my condition was, except for the doctors, who weren’t telling us anything.

After months of terrible suffering, I woke up one morning and just snapped. With my husband’s consent, I made an appointment and did the only thing I thought I could do to save my life and health: I had a second-trimester abortion.

Morally, my husband and I had few qualms about abortion.

Our church, family, and friends supported abortion, and we did too. But when it was over and the reality set in we were horrified that we had aborted our child.

When I was well enough to do in-depth research—not easy in those days before medical information was readily available on the internet—I discovered the truth: With the right treatment, exacerbation of symptoms can be prevented, women can survive, and we can give birth to healthy children.

Nearly 15 years have passed, along with three more HG pregnancies—the second a miscarriage, and the others bringing forth my son and daughter. The last pregnancy was the most difficult one of all, as the severity was much worse, I developed a potentially life-threatening staph infection from my life-saving PICC line, and I was completely bedridden for more than thirty unbelievably long weeks.

I wanted a way out, an easier way than suffering through it all. But ultimately I chose to risk my own death rather than endure the trauma of a second termination. I pressed on because of my faith in Christ and his promise to walk me through the fire. He modeled the choice I should make, and I could do all things through Him, even if it meant losing my own life. He is faithful.

What helps me now is being able to help others. In 2006, I published “Beyond Morning Sickness: Battling Hyperemesis Gravidarum,” the first-ever patient’s guide to HG. I also started a companion Web site, BeyondMorningSickness.com, that ministers to HG sufferers by connecting them with volunteers who have survived the disease. Over the past five years, with help from exposure on Paula Zahn’s CNN show, my volunteers and I have helped more than a thousand women. We’ve also donated two thousand copies of BMS, mostly to obstetricians’ and gynecologists’ offices. In an effort to help children deal with “Mother’s HG I also wrote “Mama Has Hyperemesis Gravidarum (But Only For A While),” the only children’s book about HG. My third book about HG will be published next month. We must never forget the women who come after us; we must never let them suffer alone. They must see our success and know without a doubt that it can be their own.

I have learned to be grateful for my horrific pregnancy experiences, because God used them to enable me to be able to serve others in a meaningful way. I have been in the delivery room with mothers and witnessed the birth of children who had previously been scheduled for abortion. What a blessing it has been to watch new moms cry tears of joy as they see their babies for the first time. Indeed, those are the only tears a mother should cry.

Ashli Foshee McCall, a stay-at-home home-schooling mother who battled severe hyperemesis gravidarum four times, is author of ” Beyond Morning Sickness,” which features personal stories and medical information about the disease. She is also author of “Mama Has Hyperemesis Gravidarum (But Only For A While),” a childrens’ book.

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  • Alinup3

    My Mom had it before me. I had almost constant vomiting after
    my two cancer surgeries last fall. At 89 Mom gets a lot of
    sympathy these days.

  • redskinsfan2

    This happened only 15 years ago? That’s unbelievable, astonishing. You should have sued your doctors for malpractice–and felony stupidity! It’s too bad you didn’t go to the emergency room where your severe dehydration would have been diagnosed immediately and lifesaving fluids administered. My oldest child is in his mid-20s. A neighbor who’s a doctor diagnosed my dehydration straightaway. To a medical professional it isn’t rocket science.

  • Scribbly

    Hopefully all the high profile discussion of Kate Middleton’s condition will help make sure no woman gets treated like you did.

  • Sadetec

    “As if HG wasn’t bad enough my doctor and her colleagues, always suspicious of the unplanned nature of my pregnancy, decided my illness must be psychosomatic: my body was, they said, unconsciously rebelling against an “unwanted” child. So they totally disregarded my and my husband’s desire for our baby.”

    Ashli, with Todd-Akin-esque ignorance like that, did it not occur to you your predicament might have been helped if you had encountered a little less faith and little more Science?

    As for the Duchess of Cambridge, I suppose we should be thankful she doesn’t live somewhere with one of those truly awful socialised universal healthcare systems… [Smile]

  • changingfaces

    I take exception to calling HG a “pregnancy disease”. A disease is something you can catch presumably. This is a disorder.

  • Flipost

    How terrible. You might as well blame the doctors for the death of your children. This is why I can’t stand doctors. they love to misdiagnose people to keep bringing them back for more Dr visits and take their money.

  • Drnjbmd

    Hyperemesis gravadarum (HG) is a medical illness that is quite treatable. If one selects a physician that is unwilling to treat one’s illness, then one selects another physician that is willing to treat one’s illness. It’s as simple as that. Seriously, your health is in your hands and one does not simply wait and whine if something isn’t being treated properly. HG is not new or unique to pregnant women. Many things affect the vomiting center of the brain (area postrema) and may cause the same symptoms in men with the same dehydration effects.

  • SometimesElla

    Do you “catch” cancer?

  • frustratedwiththemess

    Wow. I am sorry for your loss. Thanks for your story. It will help others going through the same thing. GOD bless.

  • kallym

    Did you not read the article? This happened to this woman approximately 15 years ago. Believe me, women are always being told our illnesses are “in our head,” and it’s only within the last 15 years that women’s symptoms are being taken more seriously.

  • GreybirdK1

    I agree with the irony, but the Royals don’t queue up for the National Helath Service, they have private care.

  • calluna

    “If one selects a physician that is unwilling to treat one’s illness, then one selects another physician that is willing to treat one’s illness. It’s as simple as that. Seriously, your health is in your hands and one does not simply wait and whine if something isn’t being treated properly. ”

    That’s a lovely idea, but when one is seriously ill – or is caring for a seriously ill loved on – the clarity of thought that allows one to do the necessary research, to realize that this person who speaks with the Voice of God that seems to come with many medical degrees, or to find a more appropriate care is all infinitely more difficult.

    Throw in there the restrictions placed on choosing different providers depending on your insurance plans – assuming you have an insurance plan – or if you live somewhere outside a major city and simply don’t have a plethora of providers to choose from…a lot of people end up suffering needlessly.

    HG is an uncommon pregnancy-related condition, but hardly unknown. At this point, all OB GYNs should be able to separate out the “whiners” from the truly ill and be able to provide a standard of care without the type of miscommunication and shaming that far too many HG sufferers report having to endure.

  • Gail78

    This is the first time I’ve heard of HG. Thanks for the information. Have to admit I was a little judgmental when I heard about the Duchess’ “extreme morning sickness.” But, I guess it really can be serious. You live and you learn.

  • dogless_infidel

    The fact that this was 15 years ago doesn’t let the doctor off the hook. My sister-in-law had HG 28 years ago. Though it took two or three emergency hospitalizations before the doctors caught on, she was treated very carefully even before the diagnosis. Keeping a patient overnight and rehydrating them was (and is) the normal course of action int he case of persistent vomiting even without a diagnosis of HG. The author’s doctors were not competent.

  • Drnjbmd

    I was treating, yes “treating” HG, more than 15 years ago. While HG is a complication of pregnancy, it can be a symptom in other conditions. To continue to see a provider, in system or not, who is not providing care is unsound reasoning and dangerous to one’s health. Surely, you well-educated people are not stupid. If a plumber is not doing the job hired, you get another plumber. Why are you unwilling to do the same with your health??? To not seek out a provider who can treat your illness is irresponsibility on the part of the patient. One has to be proactive and responsible in terms of healthcare.

  • ToryBBridge

    Sadetec, It’s not like she was getting medical advice from her CHURCH, the doctors (the representatives of Science) in this case outright failed her. Ignorance can be found pretty much anywhere. The key is learning how to be your own advocate in medical care, and that’s not something that comes naturally to a lot of people. Often, skills for self-advocation arise from complex failures on the part of the medical system that push patients into doing their own research, which seems to be the case here as well.

  • cemay1

    The insurance companies do not empower the patient to find alternate medical care. I was told after having a medical test that the follow-on painful infection was all in my head. At which time I reported the doctor to her supervisor and said I would sue if I did not get immediate relief.

    That was with an HMO (Kaiser Permanente). The next open season at work, I signed up for a PPO insurance and then switched to fee-for-service. I at least can pick now where I want to go with my medical requirements, but I pay for it in the insurance premium.

    The problem with health care in the US is that there no one to help the patient with holistic care. The patient and their family have to be the best advocate (which also means attorney in German) for themselves.

  • Secular1

    is this a disorder that can be treated before a woman gets pregnant or does this manifest itself during pregnancy only – like gestational diabetes? If they do manifest outside of pregnancy then it is like any other general disease or disorder and should be addressed in taht manner.

  • Kimbo

    I know every pregnancy is different but the one thing all 3 of my pregnancies had in common was hyperemesis gravidarum. It is miserable and most women do not get it or understand it.

    I was hospitalized due to dehydration. It became normal to vomit daily. My doctors would say it would pass in the 2nd trimester. For me it lasted from when I found out I was pregnant until delivery. It affected my relationship because no one understood it.

    There is no cure for it. The medicines do not work. The problem is your mouth will make more saliva than usual. At times you feel like you have a river in your mouth causing you to spit every minute. This is why you feel like vomiting.

    The best way for Kate to get through this is balancing what she eats. Everybody had a remedy for me. I tried everything including some lime peels with egg whites. How crazy is that? I had to try different things on each pregnancy. I found somethings that would get me through each time on my own.

    My first pregnancy, I ate peppermints. The mint relaxed my stomach but it didn’t work for the 2nd pregnancy. The second time around I ate lemon and salt or pickles. The salt helped. Third time is a charm because peppermints and lemon and salt did not work. The third time I had to get a routine. I had to eat every 5 minutes. I would eat something sweet and in the next 5 minutes I had to eat something salty. This went on all day but it helped. This helped my stomach stay balanced. I stayed way from fish or eggs or anything that smelled. Toothpaste was my enemy but I had to use it. Every morning I had to throw up from the bowel duct. It is gross and has a horrible taste (use mint to get rid of the taste). You will have to at least throw this up in the morning and try these methods to get you through the rest of the day. The mornings are the hardest.

    Like everything, do it in moderation and yes I broke some rules by not eating healthy this way but hyperemesis gravidarum doesn’t play fair. So you are doing what it t

  • Kathleen m babson

    I am a 68 year old mother of 10 beautiful children . And went through the same condition Kate is going through now . My first experience found me in the hospital at midnight 35 lbs. lighter then the week before and 36 hours later after 7 liters of I’VE fluid … I could finally give that urine sample everyone had been asking for. But with my fifth pregnancy a very old G. P. told me I just had a tough baby well seated that had pulled all the zinc out of my system. Munching on zinc fortified cereal helped better than all the fancy drugs. In the long run Joe and I lived through the tough times. Have great kids and we thanked God everyday Kay babson

  • Kathleen m babson

    Oh! I forgot… Been a while. The lack of zinc makes one hypersensitive to smells. Even good smells are a trigger to up chuck . Thank you

  • akm

    I implore you to stop blaming the patient. When seriously ill it is incredibly difficult to become an expert on your disease while tirelessly advocating for your care, insurance coverage, treatment plans, etc. I suffered and survived hyperemesis and even with supportive homecare nurses, physicians, and an amazing husband, some days felt insurmountable. My medication was $900/day and my medical costs were near 40K per month. Not every person suffering from HG has access to the kind of medical coverage to support such treatment. Please, find your compassion and find a way to stop judging and start advocating.

  • PhillyJimi1

    Blame the doctors? How ungrateful can a person be?

    Our modern medicine isn’t perfect and it is very expensive but if you go back just say 150 years ago, let look at where we were. When Lincoln got shot the doctor bleed him (to get the bad blood out) and used a poker to try find the bullet in the hole in his skull.

    Do you pine for the days of small pox? Or the black plague?

    How about getting an education and understanding how the world works rather then acting like a spoiled child.

  • PhillyJimi1

    Look I support the attempt at raising awarness for HG. It is a good thing.

    I do take exception to and I not buying this ProLife twist. “As if HG wasn’t bad enough my doctor and her colleagues, always suspicious of the unplanned nature of my pregnancy, decided my illness must be psychosomatic: my body was, they said, unconsciously rebelling against an “unwanted” child. So they totally disregarded my and my husband’s desire for our baby.”

    This part of the story has a stink to it that I can’t wash off my hands. If any doctor says something as off the wall as that you walk out of the office right away and find a real doctor not a witch doctor. But since she had an abortion she seems to need to blame the doctors for forcing it on her.

    I find it shameful to think this poor woman is suffering feeling like she did something wrong. It is okay, her life seemed to be in clear in danger. Science has learned new things and is helping women who have HG take their babies to term. .

  • Sadetec

    @ToryBBridge:

    But why did the doctors fail her? In her bio Ashli opens with “stay-at-home home-schooling mom”, suggesting she wants readers to think she’s aligned with the conservative Christian camp. Would it be a leap too far to suggest the doctors she chose were also of a similar background? Look at the evidence: Ashli a conservative Christian (or she writes very misleading bio’s), and her doctors are reportedly making diagnosis based on morality…

    The comment about “a little less faith and little more Science” was related to her doctors.

    As for advocacy of medical care: when you are sick, the last thing you need is to be waging war with the medical profession as well as your illness. Of course there will always be times when doctors and patients disagree, but it is the duty of the doctor to offer timely, comprehensive, UNBIASED, and sympathetic advice. They are supposed to be smoothing your path to recovery, not putting hurdles in your way.

  • TruthandReason

    Sadetec, Mrs. McCall wrote a comprehensive,500-page, medically-researched, physician-approved guide to all of the treatment options for hyperemesis. That’s what’s known as “science.” Has any doctor with the National Health Service, or in the world, done the same? Mrs. McCall’s organization helps hundreds of suffering pregnant women get competent medical care. How do you help them?

    Many non-religious doctors insist that hyperemesis is psychosomatic, and have done so for decades. They also claim that they are employing “science “. Yet Mrs. McCall, the Christian, is right, and they are wrong. It seems that your anti-Christian bigotry is clouding your reason. That’s not scientific.

    What evidence do you have that Mrs. McCall’s doctors were Christian, or that their incompetence was linked to their Christianity? None whatsoever.

  • saramarie2

    Thank you for this courageous sharing on your part. We do not know what we will do in this life until faced with such challenges. Your “confession” was very courageous – especially in our current times when the anti-abortion voices seem to be so vitriolic. We cannot share our experiences with judgmental condemations are quick to respond. This must have been very difficult for you.