Jessica's sister-in-law, Maria, died of preventable complications of Hyperemesis Gravidarum.

I am Jessica. My sister-in-law, Maria, died of malnutrition due to Hyperemesis Gravidarum at the age of 34 when she was 14 weeks pregnant with twins. She was hospitalized for 5 weeks before her death and still starved to death. No mother should ever starve, especially while pregnant. I want to share her story so no other mother dies from malnutrition.

The doctors first suggested she was not eating because of depression or an eating disorder, but Maria was very social and loved to eat and be with our family. She was naturally thin. Maria was ecstatic about being pregnant, but she was just sick and couldn’t stop vomiting when she ate, so she stopped eating. She went to the ER, and they sent her home telling her to eat more and questioned if she wanted the pregnancy.

She was finally admitted to a prestigious university hospital, and the doctors did brain scans, heart diagnostics, and many labs trying to understand what was going on. She was down to 97 pounds.

She lost the ability to speak, was confused, and was partially paralyzed. She was very sleepy and having increased heart rates and difficulty swallowing. She couldn’t eat by herself. She had Wernicke’s Encephalopathy and another brain issue (Central Pontine Myelinolysis) from rapid correction of her sodium levels.

The doctors said because of all the issues, the family may have to choose between Maria’s life and the life of the babies. And said if she survived, she would likely have a long-term disability called Korsokoff Syndrome.

We felt helpless as we watched her fade away. We knew there had to be something they could do, and we knew that she needed thiamin and electrolytes. But she did not get it soon enough or often enough. She continued to decline, yet her babies’ heart rates remained strong. They waited too long to give her the nutrition she needed. Her brain was swelling, and her heart was failing. She slipped into a coma.

A few days later on Thanksgiving in 2005, we got the call that she had stopped breathing. They could not revive her. My brother lost his entire family, a wife and two kids, in one day because she did not get the nutrition she needed.

Our family will forever feel incomplete without her and her children. It’s tragic. If only we had been given information about possible pregnancy complications, or she had been given prenatal vitamins with thiamin as well as IV thiamin in the hospital daily, we may not have lost the three of them.

We did find information about these complications on the HER Foundation website and connected with their support forum. But it was too late for Maria to be helped. So even 15 years later, we still grieve her loss and wish we could hold her babies in our arms and not just our hearts.

Please help us educate others on Wernicke’s and the need for nutrition during hyperemesis, so thiamin and nutritional therapy is given to mothers who are starving. No family should face the loss we have. 1 Mom is 2 many to lose her babies, to die during pregnancy, to be blamed for hyperemesis, to lose 15% of her body weight while pregnant, to suffer from preventable disease to the point she dies, to leave a husband without a family, to die at age 34, to starve to death in a modern hospital, to leave a family, to have fatal brain and heart damage due to malnutrition, and to die from preventable causes in the 21st Century.