It was about 7 months into my wife’s last pregnancy when things started to get scary. This is the story from that time in August 2011.
Being 43 years old, we knew that my wife Toni was a “high-risk pregnancy” patient. Our doctors told us about all of the “later-in-life” pregnancy risks, but luckily all the tests on the baby indicated that he was developing normally. He looked good in the ultrasounds (Figure 1) and his vitals were just fine. So generally for the first seven months, we were calm and excited to be adding a new child to the family.
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About a year or two before this, we heard of a pregnant woman in a similar circumstance to my wife that went to our soccer fields to pick up her child. Suddenly she had a stroke and died right on the field. Sadly, the baby didn’t survive either. She suffered a stroke due to rapid increase in her blood pressure, which is due to a condition known as preclampsia. Click here for more information on this condition, which is what my wife was developing during the latter stages of her pregnancy.
During our weekly doctor visits, the doctor explained to us that he did not like the trend that he was seeing in my wife’s blood pressure (BP) readings. He could see the steady upward creep in the BP. He recommended that we begin blood pressure readings at home to watch her condition more carefully.
Our doctor explained to us how fast the blood pressure situation could change (within a few hours) and that we had to take our situation very seriously. We left the doctor’s office and bought a blood pressure machine at Walgreens that could store Toni’s blood pressure data and upload it a computer.
Once we started monitoring the data, I imported the data to Tableau for visualization. Before each doctor visit, I’d print the record and bring it to the doctor’s office for our increasingly more frequent visits. An example of this chart is shown in Figure 2.
Once my wife started exceeding the BP thresholds of 160/110 by mid-August, the doctor began preparing the baby for an early delivery. He administered some medications to help the baby’s lungs develop and he started my wife on blood pressure medicine on August 27th, as shown below in Figure 3.
The doctor even admitted her to the hospital for some additional testing on her and the baby because her blood pressure was so elevated. By providing the Tableau plots to the doctor, it was easier for him to made decisions on her care since he had more data to work with compared to one or two BP readings a week. He could see the spikes in BP and the variation in readings over time that he would not normally be able to see. The doctor told me that he wished he had this type time-series data on all of his patients!
Luckily for us, we had a normal, healthy baby boy who was born about 1 month early. He didn’t have to go to the NICU because of the preparations made by the doctor during the last couple of weeks he was in the womb. Jett Black has grown from 6 1/2 pounds to nearly 25 pounds (Figure 4) in his first 21 months and has been a wonderful baby for us. We are very thankful for the experience and wisdom our doctor brought to this situation.