Allison Comer

The first days after finding out you’re pregnant involve a lot of planning. Birth plans, nursery plans … party plans. But sometimes, life has a way of throwing plans into chaos.

That’s what happened to Allison Comer and her husband Matt.

When Allison found out she was pregnant with her first child at the age of 35, she knew her age and family history of cardiac issues could pose a problem, so she looked to University Hospital for her delivery. “I really wanted to be somewhere where I knew they could take care of any issues that might come up,” she said. “The NICU was just down the hall, and University’s Heart & Vascular Institute is there as well.

“I just had this feeling that I might need something like that … and it turned out that I did.”

Allison was just 29 weeks pregnant when things started to go downhill. She was admitted to University Hospital with high blood pressure and swelling and was discharged after a few days with a diagnosis of partial placenta previa.

“That Saturday I started bleeding,” Allison said. “I thought I was going to lose our baby.”

It was Sept. 26, 2015, when the couple raced to University Hospital from Aiken (“The longest ride to Augusta I’ve ever had.”) with Matt frantically trying to calm his nearly hyperventilating wife. “I was crying … I was so scared,” Allison said. “All I could think was that it was too early for him to be born.”

Once at University, Allison was quickly re-admitted to the hospital and given IV hydration. An ultrasound confirmed that their baby was doing fine and his heartbeat was strong. That wasn’t the case with Allison.

On Oct. 1, Allison said her OB physician, Dr. Jennifer Bartley, walked into her hospital room with a strange expression on her face; she then delivered the news. Allison had HELLP syndrome, an extremely rare (fewer than 20,000 cases in the US per year) condition that stands for Hemodialysis, elevated liver enzymes and low platelet count. The only treatment? Deliver the baby immediately.

“Dr. Bartley looked at me and said, ‘The baby’s OK, but you’re not,’” Allison said. “I just burst into tears. I just thought that this wasn’t my birth plan, and I couldn’t believe this was happening.”

Allison was given a platelet transfusion to stabilize her for emergency surgery as her family gathered at University Hospital for the delivery.

She doesn’t remember anything about the surgery, and she was groggy for at least a day afterwards, but she does know this: her son Reagan was born 10 weeks premature with University’s NICU team ready and waiting; his APGAR score was 1 (a healthy baby is usually between 7-10); and he was immediately intubated and rushed to the NICU for care.

“I didn’t get to hold him for the first full week he was alive,” Allison said.

Today, Reagan is a perfectly healthy, happy baby, who keeps his parents on their toes … just the way it should be.

“I really don’t know what we would have done without University Hospital,” Allison said. “The people there made all the difference in the world.”

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