A rare pregnancy complication nearly killed a first-time mother and her baby. Now, the grateful mom wants to get the word out about a syndrome called HELLP.

“She’s my little baby doll.”

That’s how Jordan Snelson describes her newborn. Sadie Lee Snelson is 4 pounds, 10 ounces. It’s hard to believe she’s 6 weeks old. But Sadie was born at just 2 pounds, 8 ounces. She was delivered by emergency cesarean section 11 weeks early.

“She was delivered to save my life,” Jordan Snelson told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

It was Snelson’s first pregnancy. The baby was due on July 28. But in May, the 35-year-old was in excruciating pain.

“The pain felt like shooting or like stabbing knives underneath your ribs,” she said.

Snelson says doctors, where she lives in Gillette, Wyoming, suggested it was a stomach bug. But she was miserable.

“I could feel it. I could feel it for days that there was something extremely wrong,” Snelson said.

Sadie Lee (credit: CBS)

She told her parents in Boulder. Test results were sent to the University of Colorado Hospital. Within 24 hours Snelson was flown to UCH in Aurora.

“I was concerned that both Jordan and Sadie’s lives could be at risk,” said Dr. Terry Harper, Division Chief of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at UCH.

Harper says Snelson had HELLP Syndrome, a rare, complicated condition of high blood pressure that affects the liver and kidneys.

The acronym, HELLP, stands for hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, low platelet count. The syndrome usually develops in the third trimester of pregnancy and could be fatal to mother and baby.

Sadie Lee was delivered early to save her mother. But Snelson got sicker.

“I remember I had a nurse next to me kept telling me I had to live for Sadie Lee,” Snelson said.

Jordan Snelson is interviewed by CBS4's Kathy Walsh (credit: CBS)

“It makes me very happy to see her looking beautiful, healthy and to have Sadie in her arms,” said Harper on a visit to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to see the Snelsons.

Sadie is still in the hospital, but her mother feels blessed that they survived. She urges other pregnant women to know the signs of the rare syndrome and get the help they need.

Snelson believes the correct diagnosis, early delivery of Sadie, and expert care saved her. Sadie is thriving and her mother and father, Josh Snelson, hope to have their baby home in just a few weeks.



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