Bobby tells the story of his wife’s death the way new mothers tell their birth stories.
Andrea and Bobby Imkhanitsky were delighted to be having twins. Their doctor referred to the boys as Twin A and Twin B and since Andrea and Bobby’s names started with A and B too it seemed only natural to give their babies the same initials.
They decided each would name one baby — Andrea would choose Twin B’s name and Bobby would name Twin A. Bobby chose Ariel, imaging a little dare devil who’d become a skateboarder or skydiver. Andrea clued him in. “Ariel isn’t a little daredevil. Ariel is the Little Mermaid.” She suggested Asher instead and Bobby loved it, but claimed the right to change her “B” name, Braydon, by re-spelling it, “Breydon.” The Imkhanitsky family began as Asher, Breydon, Andrea and Bobby.
Bobby tells the story of Andrea’s death the way new mothers tell their birth stories — hour-by-hour, day-by-day until they reach the end.
“Her doctors followed her closely because she was 36-years-old and having twins, but all along, they said she was in the safest health category she could be in. Up until she was six-and-a-half months pregnant, every test she took was perfect. She was healthy, thin and didn’t have any blood pressure problems. She was a relaxed, calm person and she was healthy.
During Andrea’s sixth month, she developed episodes of nausea and difficulty walking. Everyone said it was to be expected with twins, but in early July, Andrea began feeling worse. She couldn’t eat or drink and she vomited. When she became so ill she couldn’t get off the couch, without Bobby’s assistance, he took her to the hospital. Bobby describes what happened next:
The hospital staff thought she was just dehydrated and she’d be out in a few hours, but every hour was worse than the one before. A couple hours later they said she wasn’t improving as quickly as they’d like and they were going to watch her a little longer. A couple hours later they said they were starting to see symptoms of preeclampsia. They said we shouldn’t worry because if worse comes to worse, they could deliver the babies early and they were old enough to survive. They didn’t think that would be necessary though and said she’d probably carry them to term. A couple hours later, they said, ‘We might be able to keep them in there another month.’ A little later, it was two weeks, then one week, then, a couple of days, then, ‘she needs to give birth now.’ She delivered my sons by C-section under general anesthesia. The boys were 32 weeks — two months premature. Everybody survived the C-section.
The babies were stable in the NICU and though he was worried, Bobby’s sister had delivered a baby at 26 weeks and had reassured Bobby that 32 weeks was no problem at all. Bobby focused on his wife.
Every few hours we’d get news she was better and then a few hours later we’d get news she was worse. But by better, it was maybe a two percent improvement that would be followed by a 10 percent deterioration. Every tiny step up was followed by a huge step down. They treated her with IV solutions and medications to deal with the preeclampsia, but when she still didn’t improve, they moved her from the maternity unit to the Intensive Care Unit. She was diagnosed with HELLP syndrome and the next day with DIC.”
HELLP Syndrome is a serious pregnancy complication that affects only 1–2 pregnancies out of a thousand. It’s a variant of preeclampsia that results in H — hemolysis (the breakdown of red blood cells), EL — elevated liver enzymes and LP — low platelet count (which is involved in blood clotting factors). In the worst cases, HELLP can progress to DIC — Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) — a clotting disorder that leads to excess bleeding (hemorrhage). The American Pregnancy Association says that the maternal mortality rate with HELLP is about 1.1%.
Bobby says Andrea was conscious until the fourth day when she was placed in an induced coma and on continuous dialysis. She had multiple exploratory surgeries as doctor after doctor desperately tried to keep Andrea alive. Bobby says:
“There must have been 20 of them. Every new doctor would show up, confident he could solve the problem and fix my wife and within a couple of hours, it was beyond his expertise. Then the next specialist would take over and within a few hours, it was beyond him and he’d call in another expert. They’d each look at me, then look at the ground and walk out and I knew they’d reached the maximum of what they knew to do. Finally, there was no one else to call in. On July 25th, Andrea died. I was with her when she took her last breath, surrounded by all the doctors and nurses who’d tried to keep her alive. It was devastating.”
Bobby’s boys have been home from the NICU for more than a month and are doing fine. The Tiny Miracles Foundation, a Fairfield County, Connecticut based non-profit organization dedicated to helping parents a premature babies, provided a baby nurse for the first month they were home, enabling Bobby to grieve his wife and bond with his babies. His family and friends are pitching in as he masters the job of providing newborn care for two tiny boys while juggling responsibilities of his brand new business. He’s struggling to cover the endless expenses his boys require like a nanny, special formula and medical insurance. He’s also working hard to preserve memories, creating photo albums and writing stories so one day, his sons will know who their mother, Andrea Imkhanitsky was. She was, Bobby says, “the sweetest, most loving girl you’d ever meet.”
Andrea’s story is a rare situation where even with appropriate medical care, a tragedy occurred. Every Mother Counts’ goal is to make sure that doesn’t happen to other mothers, especially those who can’t get the medical care they need. If you want to help Bobby with expenses as he raises Asher and Breydon alone, click here and contribute to their GoFundMe page.