Volunteer Profile: Nicole Purnell


Volunteer Profile- January 2011

Nicole Purnell, Southwest Regional Coordinator

What was your experience with preeclampsia?
My pregnancy seemed rather normal and uneventful to me until I reached 33 weeks. My blood pressure had been creeping upward, but I wasn't concerned about it. I had a terrible cold and was taking meds that raised my blood pressure even further and that was when I was put on bedrest. At 34+5 weeks, I woke up in the middle of the night not feeling right. My husband took me to L&D just to be safe. Or so we thought. Once we got there and were checked in, the nurses started hooking me up to all the monitors. The monitors were silent and they were not able to find a heartbeat. When the epidural was place, I crashed. I remember my OB slapping me on the legs and yelling at me to breathe. I was rushed for an emergency c-section and they discovered that my placenta had completed detached and I was bleeding internally. Those first 24 hours I survived a second surgery to resolve the uncontrolled bleeding, DIC, kidney and liver failure and 13 blood transfusions. I spent 5 days in ICU and another 4 days on the post-op floor before being discharged. A few days after my discharge, we buried our son.

Why do you volunteer for the Preeclampsia Foundation?
There are so many reasons why I continue to volunteer. It started with wanting to spread awareness so other families would have to go through what we did. There is still a huge need to spread awareness and for mom's to take preeclampsia seriously. I want to be able to support families that have had a loss and let them know that they can survive through the pain. They can build a legacy for their children so that they live on.

What goals and dreams do you have for how the PF could inspire more local activities?
We all realize how traumatic preeclampsia is even with the best outcomes. There is a need to connect to other families that truly understand how pregnancy isn't always blissful and happy. We can support each other through the hard times and celebrate when we cheat this disease from another tragedy. We need leaders to take that step of faith to reach out to others locally. When we gather, we create awarness and community.

How aware were you about preeclampsia before/during your pregnancy?
I was blissfully ignorant. When preeclampsia was first mentioned to me, I ran to my pregnancy books which mention it in almost passing. The short paragraphs feed my naivete that all things would be fine and this was a rare complication and the worst that could happen is that I get put on bedrest and deliver a little early. I had no idea it could end like it did.

What resources do you find most helpful to volunteers and Foundation members?
The forums! The Grief and Loss forums were an amazing area of support for me. Not only did I find other moms that had lost babies, but had lost them in the very same traumatic way that I did. I found moms that walked in my shoes and there is immense comfort in knowing you aren't alone.

What has been your most gratifying moment as a Foundation volunteer?
Going to Saving Grace was an amazing event and it was wonderful to "meet" the people I have been working with for years. But hands down the most gratifying was the 2010 Promise Walk. There were many moments where I looked around in awe. To think that I would never have had that opportunity if my world hadn't been turned upside down. When we started adding up all the numbers in the end, I sat there and cried. Every person that came and every dollar that was raised gave meaning to my son's sacrifice. Even though he never took one breath, he has lives on through others.


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