It was a holiday two years in the planning – three weeks travelling across the US culminating in the flashing lights of Las Vegas.
It was this Australian couple’s first time in the US – the trip of a lifetime and some rare time away from their other children aged, 10, 8 and 3. But Adelaide dad John Shaw never imaged it would end with him holding his stillborn son in his arms and saying goodbye to his 28-year-old wife.
He is now facing the difficult task of trying to get the bodies of his wife and stillborn son back to South Australia.
Natasha Angie, 26 weeks pregnant with her fourth child, was given the okay by doctors to make the 3-week trip across the U.S she was healthy and had three previously untroubled pregnancies.
But on Saturday May 14 while in Las Vegas Natasha fell ill.
Natasha and John while on holidays. Via Seven News.
She had a migraine and abdominal pain, but the couple didn't think it was anything serious, Natasha just wanted to rest.
“She never had a problem with any other pregnancy. We never thought this would happen," John Shaw told Deadly News.
"We thought it was just migraines," he said. "It was the same feeling she thought she had when she had a migraine back home, you know?"
The sickness came and went, for three days she had migraines and abdominal pains but she just rested.
Then early Saturday Natasha woke up her husband.
John told Deadly his wife had stroke-like symptoms and became unresponsive, so he called for an ambulance.
"On the ambulance bed, when she was taken out of the room, I told her I love you. She said I love you back to me twice, and that were the last words that came out of her mouth," he said.
Unbeknownst to the couple Natasha had HELLP (an acronym for Hemolysis which is the breaking down of red blood cells, Elevated Liver enzymes and Low Platelet count) syndrome - life-threatening pregnancy complication among women in their third trimester. HELP is a form of preeclampsia, which is a rapidly progressive condition characterised by high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine.
John said they assumed Natasha was healthy as she had no symptoms and no problems with her past three pregnancies.
As Natasha fought for her life doctors told John that his unborn son had not survived.
Doctors at Sunrise Hospital & Medical Centre doctors delivered her 26-week-old baby while she was sedated in order to try and 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. Then he was brought to the morgue. She never ever knew what was going on," John told News 3LV.
"Her heart and kidneys failed on her. They put her on life support that night. I went there the next morning to find out she had swelling in the brain and bleeding in the brain. The doctor said to me what was wrong with her and I asked him if she is basically gone, dead. And she said yeah. That was the hardest thing."
John holds his son. Via Seven News.
Then John had to make the hardest call of his life to his three children via video call they said goodbye to their mother.
"My little baby is only three. He didn't know what was going on," he said
"Natasha always wanted the best for our children. 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."
Other important symptoms include swelling, sudden weight gain, and changes in vision. Via IStock.
Australian Action on Pre Eclampsia says that women with HELLP syndrome often complain of a pain in the upper abdomen below the ribs, which is indicative of a tender liver. There may also be heartburn, vomiting and headache.
Other important symptoms include swelling, sudden weight gain, and changes in vision, but as News 3LV reports some women with rapidly advancing disease report few symptoms.
"Five percent of women are going to get preeclampsia. Of that 5%, about 20% of women develop HELLP syndrome," Dr. David Kartzinel, the Vice Chairman of the OBGYN Department at Sunrise Hospital told News 3LV.
"Usually, a woman comes in complaining of the worst headache she's had in her life, complaining about nausea, about visual disturbances. When the nurse checks their vitals, they have high blood pressure and protein in the urine. Usually, when those symptoms are showing and you get treatment, the patient always get better, but the important thing is to recognise and treat it. People who don't get treated, 1 in 4 of them develop a serious case of HELLP syndrome.
He said the condition came on very suddenly.
“Sometimes I've seen patients get worse in a few hours, and sometimes patients get worse over a few days," he said.
Risk factors for HELLP syndrome include being over the age of 35 for a first pregnancy, gestational hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and also having multiple pregnancies such as twins or triplets. But the number one risk factor is having preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy. 25% of women who have preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy could have HELLP syndrome in another pregnancy.
For now John Shaw remains in Las Vegas - while the couple had travel insurance the family are ascertaining whether it covers the cost of bringing home their stillborn son.
An online fundraiser to cover the costs of repatriating the bodies and to help the couple's three other children, Kyeesha, 10, Josiah, 8, and Jacquon, 3 has been started at GoFundMe.
John told The Advertiser that at this stage all he wanted to do was get home.
“I’m just trying to get by day by day,” he said.
“I will miss having Natasha around and that smile.
“I just want to get her and our son home with me so they can be laid to rest and their family can say goodbye. Any help we can get ... would be deeply appreciated.”
To help the family visit the GoFundMe page here.
Please note that keeping in mind the cultural sensitivity of images of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people the image of John and his stillborn son was released with the family’s permission.