Until last year right around this time, I knew nothing about preeclampsia. Sure, when I was pregnant, the doctors talked about it. But since I was not diagnosed with it I let the information go in one ear and out the other. There were too many other thing I needed to think about before becoming a new mother. One of my friends went through it right after my daughter was born and I regrettably still did not fully understand the magnitude of it all. She and her newborn daughter were in the hospital suffering from a life threatening problem, and I still did not understand.
Then I met Sarah Hughes...
Sarah and my husband went to college together. The magic of Facebook made us friends. Sarah is an advocate for the Preeclampsia Foundation and the coordinator of the Philadelphia Promise Walk for Preeclampsia. She became fully aware of preeclampsia and its horrors after the birth of her daughter Hayley. She shares her story here:
Sarah and her daughter Hayley
We mothers are so used to be
the nurturers and caregivers that very often we make light of what we are
feeling in order to continue on with the routine. So when I woke up 6
days after my c-section unable to catch my breath, with blurry vision and a
dull headache I thought I was just tired. I had a newborn and a toddler, I
didn’t have time to think something was wrong with me or what I could do to fix
it, but my husband Rob insisted I call my OBGYN.
Hayley was my second
baby. She arrived full term via scheduled c-section on October 25th. Our
little princess had arrived and even my son Derek, at just 26 months old, was
thrilled for our family. I was released from the hospital and spent two
days in that post baby honeymoon phase. When I agreed to called my OBGYN I was
surprised at the stern immediacy in her voice when she insisted I get to the
hospital right away.
Derek meeting Hayley for the first time
My in-laws rushed over and I
kissed my babies good-bye trying to be strong but unable to hold back the
tears. Derek was going to be a fireman for Halloween that day, plus my brand
new Hayley Jane, I needed to be home and dress Hayley in pink and cuddle
her…would she forget me? Would we never bond? I didn’t realize then that it
would be 3 hellish days till I saw them again.
Preeclampsia. I heard the word, I knew it had to do with pregnancy and
headaches and blood pressure (mine was 220/110)……but I wasn’t pregnant!!!!
There I was, a mother of two, about to be hooked up to a Magnesium IV so
I wouldn’t have a seizure or stroke due to preeclampsia and I had NEVER even
heard of having preeclampsia postpartum!
A very sweet nurse sat down
next to me and grabbed my hand firmly. She asked me to tell her what I was
thinking. I told her, “I’m scared, I just want to be home with my babies
and I’m nervous what will happen to me and I’m afraid that I might die”.
That was the honest truth, I was petrified that I would seize and die.
The first night I was on the
magnesium I saw 5 of everything. I had to wear an oxygen tube because my oxygen
saturation levels kept dropping so low that every time I would drift into sleep
I would wake up gasping for my breath. I was pumping every two hours, unable to
get out of bed and hooked up to a catheter.
I felt so sick, oh so sick.
The magnesium makes you so so so sickly feeling. After I came off the
Magnesium I felt “better”. My blood pressure was still high but low enough that
I could go home eventually.
It took a few weeks for my BP
and me to get back to normal. I feel so lucky that my preeclampsia story only
involves me and that Hayley was unharmed by it all. Most people aren’t so
lucky since Preeclampsia is the leading known cause of prematurity.
Thousands of women and babies
die or get very sick each year from this dangerous condition called
preeclampsia, a life-threatening disorder that occurs only during pregnancy and
the postpartum period. Affecting at least 5-8% of all pregnancies, preeclampsia
and related disorders such as HELLP syndrome and eclampsia are most often
characterized by the presence of protein in the urine and a rapid rise in blood
pressure that can lead to seizure, stroke, multiple organ failure and death of
the mother and/or baby. Swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches and changes in
vision are important symptoms; however, some women with rapidly advancing disease report few
Typically, preeclampsia occurs after
20 weeks gestation (in the late 2nd or 3rd trimesters or middle to late
pregnancy), though it can occur earlier. Proper prenatal care is essential to
diagnose and manage preeclampsia. Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH) and
toxemia are outdated terms for preeclampsia. Globally, preeclampsia and
other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are a leading cause of maternal and
infant illness and death. The Preeclampsia Foundation www.preeclampsia.org the only non-profit in the US devoted to hypertensive
disorders of pregnancy, serving the 10 million women worldwide who develop
preeclampsia each year.
In the 5-15 years after having had
preeclampsia I am now twice as likely to develop heart disease. According to
the Preeclampsia Foundation there are an
estimated 4.5M US
women alive today who are at risk to die from Cardio Vascular Disease or stroke
because of their preeclampsia history. Both Hayley and Derek’s future wife are at a
higher risk for developing preeclampsia because yes it is hereditary. I have hope that one day we will find a cause
and a cure for preeclampsia. I will
forever be trying to help in the education of preeclampsia and raise money for The Preeclampsia Foundation. I am the volunteer walk coordinator for the Promise
Walk for Preeclampsia Philadelphia/South Jersey. May is officially
Preeclampsia Awareness Month. Won’t you
join our walk on Saturday, May 11th, 2013 at Challenge
in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
We walk on Mother’s Day Weekend to celebrate Mothers and Babies!! If you
aren’t local to the Philadelphia
area you can find a walk closer to you at www.promisewalk.org We can’t do it alone!
We walked with Sarah last year and will be there again this year. It is a really fun event that helps raise money - but better yet it helps bring preeclampsia survivors, friends and family together in a bright sunny light. I hope you will join us.
About Sarah Hughes…I grew up in
Staten Island, New York. When I escaped
working in New York City for a new life in Philadelphia I started dating my now
husband Rob. We have two children, Derek is 4 and Hayley is 2. Finnegan is our
5 year old Australian Shepherd and really more like a third child than a dog.
All of our children love to sleep in our bed!! I am a Shot@Life Champion and a Preeclampsia
Foundation Walk Coordinator. I blog over at www.finneganandthehughes.com