An Australian father of three and his wife, pregnant with the couple’s fourth child, were just days into their dream vacation in the U.S. when tragedy struck.
The expectant mother, 28-year-old Natasha Angie, was 26 weeks pregnant and had been cleared by her doctor to make the 3-week trip across the United States, reports News3LV.
But last week, Angie and her husband John Shaw were in Las Vegas, she began experiencing abdominal pains. Within days, Angie and her baby were dead from a rare pregnancy condition called HELLP syndrome – a complication of preeclampsia.
Shaw said that his wife spent three days resting in the hopes it would help her headaches and abdominal pain. Then, on Saturday, she began to show stroke-like symptoms and became unresponsive, so Shaw called an ambulance.
“On the ambulance bed, when she was taken out of the room, I told her I love you,” Shaw said. “She said I love you back to me twice, and that were the last words that came out of her mouth.”
Doctors sedated the young woman from Murray Bridge, South Australia and delivered her son in an attempt to save her life.
“The baby was already deceased when it came out. I got to hold him for a few hours and get some memories with him,” Shaw said. “Then he was brought to the morgue. She never ever knew what was going on.”
Angie’s heart and kidneys failed and she was put on life support. Her brain was swollen and bleeding and her doctors told Shaw that she was “basically gone,” he said.
Shaw delivered the news to the couple’s three children on a video call, letting them each say goodbye to their mother, who died later the next day.
“Natasha always wanted the best for our children,” he said. “She wanted to give them things she didn’t have growing up, and I want to be able to do that for them, for her.”
Now, Shaw’s mother Rosalind Karpany is caring for the children while her son is trying to raise the funds he needs to pay his family’s medical bills and bring his wife and baby back with him to Australia.
“We are trying to get support for John for when he comes back because there will be hard times ahead,” Karpany told the Daily Advertiser.
“It’s just getting our heads around it and with the children, it’s just so upsetting, you don’t expect it to happen,” she continued.
Shaw said he hopes that sharing his family’s story will lead to increased awareness about the rare condition that claimed his wife and child’s lives.
HELLP syndrome is a rapidly progressive form of preeclampsia characterized by the destruction of red blood cells, elevated liver enzymes and low platelet count that can develop suddenly.
Symptoms include headache, nausea and vomiting and upper right abdominal pain, according to the Mayo Clinic. The condition can be difficult to diagnose, so it’s important for pregnant women to be aware of the signs and seek medical treatment immediately if they’re exhibiting symptoms.
“If you’re pregnant and you feel those symptoms, go to the doctor because it happens all too quick,” Shaw said.