When Is a Dollar Not Just a Dollar?
Seven-year-old Conor Mestemacher won a button design contest a few months ago. As part of a six-week campaign, the Allina Hospital and Clinics Office of Philanthropy hosted the "Help Give Hope" contest for all employees of this Minneapolis, Minn., healthcare company. Conor won the contest with his "Spread the Buzz" slogan, featuring a bumblebee earning him the $250 prize.
Why was this contest winner so special to us?
Conor's inspiration for the button was very personal and deeply meaningful. Bees were a favorite of his cousin Brienne Heroux, whom he nicknamed Bri-Bri. This Stillwater, Minn., police officer lost her life to preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome two weeks after giving birth to her son, Leland, in September 2009. Conor explained, "Bri-Bri is my hero and my hero is in my heart now. I think she is very proud of my bee. Well, actually, it's her bee that I made for her."
Conor was thrilled when he learned he won the contest and immediately donated his reward to the Preeclampsia Foundation. His $250 donation is worth more to us than just its financial support. It carries such a beautiful message of the selfless love of a child. A child who worked with his hands, his crayons and colored pencils to create a design that would spread the buzz about preeclampsia, the common yet relatively obscure complication of pregnancy that took the life of his Bri-Bri.
Since Bri's tragic death, the family remembers her by actively participating in the Promise Walk for Preeclampsia, the annual awareness-raising event held in dozens of cities across the country including Minneapolis-St. Paul where the Heroux family and friends come out in huge numbers. Bri's friend, Joyce Lewis has been one of the walk's co-chairs and says, "Bri Heroux was my best friend. I miss her everyday. She inspires me every day to do whatever I can to raise awareness and prevent others from suffering this horrible outcome."
Without a doubt, 2010 was the year of "spreading the buzz" as we:
- Doubled the size of the Promise Walk for Preeclampsia to raise awareness and reach more people, including a complete rebranding and launch of a dedicated website.
- Redesigned our online patient education material and social media tools to provide more information to both patients and care providers. If you haven't already, please check out our new website, chock full of new information and resources.
- Launched a "continuum of care" campaign to spread the message about the importance of patient education to all care providers such as nurses, midwives, childbirth educators and doulas.
As more of us "spread the buzz" about preeclampsia and its warning signs, fewer babies will grow up wondering why their mothers had to give up their life to bring them into the world. Fewer mothers' arms will ache with emptiness as they grieve their losses. Conor's response to Bri's death reminds us that even the smallest steps to spread the buzz can make a huge difference in our life-saving mission.
Conor asked his mother a poignant question, "Mom, will people stop dying now from what Bri-Bri died of?" We want nothing more than to be able to answer him honestly and compellingly, "Conor, no more moms need to die from preeclampsia."
Your generous donation will help us continue providing vital advocacy, outreach, research, and patient education and support services.
If you haven't yet, please consider making an end-of-the-year donation to help support our education and awareness programs. Gifts may be given in honor or memory of a loved one; we'll notify them personally on your behalf if you wish.
Wishing you a year that delivers all the best to you and yours!
Eleni Tsigas, Executive Director
and your friends at the Preeclampsia Foundation
About the Preeclampsia Foundation
is to reduce maternal and infant illness and death due to preeclampsia, HELLP syndrome, and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy by providing patient support and education, raising public awareness, catalyzing research and improving healthcare practices. We envision a world where preeclampsia no longer threatens the lives of mothers and babies.
Preeclampsia is a disorder that occurs only during pregnancy and the postpartum period and affects both the mother and the unborn baby. Affecting at least 5-8% of all pregnancies, it is a rapidly progressive condition characterized by high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine. Swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches and changes in vision are important symptoms; however, some women with rapidly advancing disease report few symptoms.
Typically, preeclampsia occurs after 20 weeks gestation (in the late 2nd or 3rd trimesters or middle to late pregnancy) and up to six weeks postpartum (after delivery), though in rare cases it can occur earlier than 20 weeks. Proper prenatal care is essential to diagnose and manage preeclampsia. Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH) and toxemia are outdated terms for preeclampsia. HELLP syndrome and eclampsia (seizures) are other variants of preeclampsia.
Globally, preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death. By conservative estimates, these disorders are responsible for 76,000 maternal and 500,000 infant deaths each year.
Thousands of women and babies die or get very sick each year from a dangerous condition called preeclampsia, a life-threatening disorder that occurs only during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Preeclampsia and related disorders such as HELLP syndrome and eclampsia are most often characterized by a rapid rise in blood pressure that can lead to seizure, stroke, multiple organ failure and death of the mother and/or baby.
The Preeclampsia Foundation is an empowered community of patients and experts, with a diverse array of resources and support to help you have the best possible pregnancy or to help you navigate the questions you’ll have if you don’t. We provide unparalleled support and advocacy for the people whose lives have been or will be affected by the condition – mothers, babies, fathers and their families.
We are steadfast in our resolve to improve diagnosis, management and prevention of preeclampsia through research and improved health care practices.
In the meantime, because all pregnancies are at risk, our best defense against the worst outcomes is to ensure patients understand and appropriately respond to the warning signs of preeclampsia. The problem is, few people are aware and adequately informed.
With your help, we can drive awareness, advance our scientific understanding and medical practices, and together help create a world where preeclampsia and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy no longer threaten the lives of mothers and babies.