Becky Sloan, National Promise Walk Director
What was your experience with preeclampsia?
I began experiencing face and body swelling and headaches at 22 weeks. These symptoms, along with extreme weight gain, bouts of high blood pressure, and lower fetal movement continued until 31 weeks. My doctor was never concerned with my symptoms and told me, "If you don't stop gaining weight, you'll gain 70 lbs. before your pregnancy is over." I didn't make it out of the office before I burst into tears. I felt awful, like no one cared how I felt, and I still had no idea what preeclampsia was because the signs and symptoms were never mentioned to me. I was never diagnosed with anything more than 'being a first time worried mom.'
I had a doctor's appointment when I was just one day shy of 32 weeks and despite my excruciating headache I was sent home and told to continue to take Tylenol. Later that evening I was home alone, and could no longer take the head pain. I called Labor and Delivery to ask for help and was told I needed to go to the hospital to be assessed. I somehow had enough sense to know that things were not right and that I shouldn't wait for a ride. Luckily I didn't wait, because if I had waited for a ride from a friend or even an ambulance I don't think I would be here today. Eleven short minutes after my arrival at the hospital, I went into code blue eclamptic seizures and lost consciousness. My husband didn't have a cell phone at the time, so I had no way to contact him. He came home to a Post-It note on our door that said I had gone to the hospital. He had no idea what he was about to face: three hours of not knowing if his new wife and baby would survive this ordeal.
I am happy to say we both did! On October 30, 2004, our son, Jacob William, was born two months premature due to severe preeclampsia, and surprisingly neither one of us had any lasting health issues. We have since been blessed with a baby girl, Brynn Holland, in 2008. I experienced the sudden onset of preeclampsia and was in the first stages of HELLP Syndrome when Brynn was delivered immediately on the same day of diagnosis at 36 weeks.
Why do you volunteer for the Preeclampsia Foundation?
I volunteer because although my family and I are some of the lucky ones, what happened to me wasn't OK. Many Foundation volunteers unfortunately are here to honor those whom they have lost. I am here to stand up and say that you shouldn't have to lose a child, daughter, sibling, aunt, or grandchild in order to make a difference. My first pregnancy experience should have been different, and because of the Foundation my second pregnancy was as normal as it was ever going to be after being labeled high risk. My first doctor was obviously incredibly uninformed about preeclampsia, which in turn made me unaware of the disease. My second doctor, the one who saved our lives, was obviously informed, but more importantly I was informed. I volunteer to raise awareness by telling my story. If my first doctor would have known the symptoms; if I had known the signs and symptoms, maybe my story would have been different.
What does it mean to you to be awarded the 2011 Hope Award for Volunteer of the Year?
The Promise Walks are so appropriately named and that promise is very dear to my heart and to all my family. I look forward to the day when preeclampsia and other complications of pregnancy are relegated to history books because research has found preventions and solutions, and the education of women and of members of the medical profession has eliminated needless suffering and sorrow. Hope is what we all need; hope is what this organization provides. Thank you for this opportunity to once again cry with you (something I do often and those close to me know this), but this time I cry for joy.
What has been your most gratifying moment as a Foundation volunteer?
This is a tough question for me. I think the success of the Promise Walks has finally sunk in. Every time we add a new city to the map, it is definitely a moment to enjoy. I continue to have high expectations for the Promise Walk and myself as a volunteer. The fact that I have been able to encourage and support volunteers around the country in bringing awareness to their city and raising funds for the Foundation is very gratifying.
What are your continuing goals for your work with the Foundation in the near future?
I can say that I am very proud of the work I have done thus far with the Promise Walk for Preeclampsia. I will continue to work to bring Promise Walks to more cities so that others can use the walk platform to raise awareness and funds. My personal goal is to enable the Foundation to continue its mission, ensuring healthy pregnancies for all women and delivering hope to millions of families around the world.