A YORK mum who nearly died after developing a rare form of pre-eclampsia - which caused her unborn baby's heart to stop beating - has told of how they beat all the odds to survive. She speaks to health reporter Kate Liptrot.
WHEN Emma Keef walked in to York Hospital she couldn't have imagined that less than three-and a-half hours later her daughter would have been born and she would be fighting for her life.
Emma had been suffering chest pains and at 35 weeks pregnant - and not wanting to take any chances - she waved goodbye to her husband Tom and son Oscar and headed in for what she thought would be a quick check-up.
But it soon became clear something was wrong when a medical student had to repeatedly check her blood pressure in disbelief at how high it was. A concerned doctor verified the reading and told Emma to slowly to lie down and held her hand.
From that moment her hospital room was a whirlwind as a team of experts came to assess her and it was determined the 29-year-old from Holgate had HELLP - a life-threatening pregnancy complication which was causing her kidney and liver to fail and making her blood pressure incredibly high.
The only way to treat the condition was to deliver the baby as soon as possible but there was a complication - her platelet count was too low and doctors were worried her body would not be able to cope with a caesarean.
However when midwives realised her baby's heart had stopped beating, she was rushed into surgery.
"Suddenly there were even more people there," Emma said, "Annabel's heart had stopped and she was no longer moving.
"The whole way down the corridor I was screaming. There was no heartbeat and in my mind my baby was dead.
"In under five minutes they had rushed me to theatre and got her out, screaming and objecting to the rude awakening."
Surgeons found Emma's placenta had abrupted. "Had they not taken her out, she would not have survived," Emma said, "But she was not ill, she was okay."
For 24 hours afterwards Emma did not get to meet Annabel as she was too ill to be moved. For five days Emma had had intensive round the clock midwife and healthcare assistant care, as her blood pressure did not drop and medics later confessed to her they were frightened she may stop breathing in her sleep.
"The support I got afterwards was amazing. They put in so much time and effort," said Emma, who said hospital staff were endlessly kind and attentive to her and her concerned family.
After nine days Emma was allowed home and Annabel followed six days later.
"The fact that we both came out of it alive is amazing, and I thank the staff at York Labour Ward and Special Care Baby Unit for saving us and supporting us into a happy healthy family," she said.
"We are so grateful and so lucky. Even 20 years ago I wouldn't have made it and Annabel wouldn't have made it.
"One of the midwives did say it was the second worst case of HELLP she had seen - the other woman had ended up dying and then resuscitated and going into a coma.
"My husband thought we would die.
"When I was in theatre the labour ward stopped apparently. All the staff were in the corridor waiting to hear, they were rooting for me."
Now 31, and proud mother to four-year-old Oscar and a very healthy and happy two-year-old Annabel, Emma has set herself the challenge of running in the York marathon for York Labour Ward and Special Care Baby Unit as a way of saying thanks.
She said: "I avoided all unnecessary exercise in school and only took up exercise to fit into my wedding dress. Running the marathon will be a massive achievement for me and I never thought I would be able to do something like this."
Already in training and able to run 16 miles, Emma has so far raised £1200.
You can donate to Emma’s JustGiving page at https://www.justgiving.com/Emma-Keef/
What is HELLP?
HELLP syndrome is potentially as dangerous as eclampsia. Once the mother is in hospital and receiving treatment, it is possible for her to make a full recovery.
The letters in the name HELLP stand for each part of the condition:
'H' is for haemolysis – this is where the red blood cells in the blood break down.
'EL' is for elevated liver enzymes (proteins) – a high number of enzymes in the liver is a sign of liver damage.
'LP' is for low platelet count – platelets are cells in the blood that help it to clot.