What was your experience with preeclampsia? I developed a life-threatening case of severe preeclampsia in 2002. My daughter was delivered by emergency C-section 2 ½ months early weighing 3 pounds and measuring 14 inches long. In my case, delivery did not relieve my symptoms and I spent time in the ICU with a pulmonary artery catheter in my neck, unable to see or hold my daughter for her first days of life. Even with extremely high blood pressure, incredible headaches and pulmonary edema, my doctors released me on two separate occasions. Each time I had to be re-admitted within hours, with slurred speech, vision problems, and tingling in limbs. In total, I remained in the hospital on magnesium sulfate for about three weeks as the preeclampsia continued postpartum. My daughter came home after 30 days in the NICU.
How aware were you about pre-e before/during your pregnancy? I was not familiar with preeclampsia other than maybe a brief sentence or two that I read in a pregnancy book. It wasn't until they were administering steroid shots to mature my baby's lungs, and transporting me by ambulance to a new hospital equipped with a Level III NICU, that I started to realize the condition was something very serious. And it was confusing to me that even the doctors could be so uncertain about it. They weren't recognizing the possibility of post-partum preeclampsia and I was led to believe that since my baby had been delivered I should simply get better. It wasn't until later after finding the Preeclampsia Foundation when I was considering more children, that I had a clearer understanding of what my body had been fighting through, and the full extent of associated risks.
Why do you volunteer for the Preeclampsia Foundation? What volunteer positions have you held? Although my daughter and I were okay, I was disappointed over the way the delivery had gone and the lack of knowledge the medical providers had during it all. I wanted to direct my time and energy toward something that could make a difference. So I started organizing local fundraisers like golf outings, walk-a-thons, and children's play parties to raise money and increase awareness. I grew to be part of a small team of lead volunteers, working more directly with home office staff. And for a few years had a role as Director of Local Fundraising, guiding other volunteers to host their own events with benefit to the Foundation. This past year I was excited to be on the NYC Saving Grace gala steering committee. Now I serve as the Walk Coordinator for the Lehigh Valley Promise Walk and am the Regional Coach for the Mid-Atlantic area.
What are your goals and dreams for your involvement with the Foundation? It's my hope that my efforts, combined with the work of other dedicated people, will make an impact strong enough to bring about healthier and happier deliveries for those influenced by preeclampsia. We are all working toward a time when preeclampsia no longer causes such devastating effects. And now that the AHA has identified preeclampsia as a risk factor for heart disease later in life, I have concerns for our future health, which motivates me even more to be an active volunteer.
What has been your most gratifying moment as a Foundation volunteer? The most heart-warming are the times when I hear someone is comforted or more informed after hearing about my experience and my connection to the cause. And it's rewarding to plan a successful event knowing the money collected will go to critical research. But I think being featured with my daughter on this Promise Walk t-shirt project, is one of the most special.