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Champion of the Month Keffer uses her science background to aid research

With story after story of preventable situations, uninformed medical teams and devastating outcomes, it leaves many of us wondering, “where’s the hope?” When women and families of preeclampsia patients come to the Preeclampsia Foundation for support, information, and a reason why, we most commonly hear that more needs to be done.

Norlisa Keffer came to the Preeclampsia Foundation after her own experience with preeclampsia, not for support or information, but to pay it forward. She had a knowledgeable medical team who handled her care to the detail of best practices. Norlisa wants all moms with preeclampsia to benefit from quality health care so that their lives -- and the lives of their babies -- are not threatened. This powerful passion makes Norlisa our Champion of the Month, and here's her story.

“My husband and I had infertility issues, and I had chronic hypertension before I got pregnant,” said Norlisa. “After infertility treatments, I got pregnant with boy/girl twins, and my doctor told me about preeclampsia. He and his nurse took a ‘let’s fight this disease and be vigilant’ approach versus a ‘wait-and-see attitude.’ My nurse always told me that if I had a concern to let them know about it, no matter how big or small, and they would tell me if it was a big deal or not. Every step of the way, for my husband Gordon and myself, we were a team with my doctor and his nurse. Every question was answered and every fear addressed, and we always knew the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia and when to call and when to come straight into Labor and Delivery.

“Their vigilance paid off,” continued Norlisa. “I was induced and delivered the twins at 38.4 weeks, and almost six years later, we had a son born at 36 weeks. Preeclampsia did strike: twice postpartum (one week and five weeks) in my first pregnancy, and at 34 weeks and one week postpartum in my second pregnancy. But my doctor was ready and we are all doing well today.

“I know that my story is very different from many,” she said. “I came to the Preeclampsia Foundation not to get information and support, but to ‘pay it forward’ so to speak. I do this for my daughter and my possible future daughters-in-law, so they’ll be able to enjoy pregnancies when preeclampsia is no more.”

Norlisa has gone above and beyond what is expected of a volunteer and has a genuine passion for her work here.

Norlsia and Dr. Easterling“I initially got involved with the Preeclampsia Foundation when my twins were born in 2003,” said Norlisa. “ wanted to help other women find hope, to let them know that their babies and their stories mattered—just as I know my doctor and nurse feel towards each and every one of their patients. The champion of the month isn’t just me; my husband was crucial as well as my doctor Tom Easterling (chair of the Preeclampsia Foundation’s Medical Board and newest ISSHP Chesley Award winner!) and his nurse Jennifer Bielitzki (Washington State March of Dimes Nurse of the Year in 2008) – and all the nurses on our team. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have had the success pregnancies I did and my babies and I wouldn’t be as healthy as we are today.

“I want to help women find their voices as well as a compassionate medical team that’s equally passionate about fighting preeclampsia. I’m excited in the direction the Preeclampsia Foundation is going in making the patient voice heard, and I’m humbled to be able to meet so many great ladies to make this journey together to eradicate preeclampsia. What Dr. Easterling and Nurse Jennifer did for me, I would love to see for every woman.”

Norlisa is involved in many aspects of the Preeclampsia Foundation. She serves on the foundation’s Patient Advisory Council and works closely with The Preeclampsia Registry. She is also part of our Patient Support Network.

22632“It is both humbling and an honor to be a part of the Patient Advisory Council and the Patient Support Network,” said Norlisa. “I meet other moms and love the fact that I can bring their stories to the table, so to speak. Although preeclampsia is one disease, there are so many ugly sides to it, and all of our stories are pieces of the puzzle for researchers.

“Representing the Patient Advisory Council on the The Preeclampsia Registry’s Steering Committee has been the most rewarding, specifically working with researchers on Understanding the Patient Journey,” said Norlisa. “There are doctors and researchers out there who want to make sure that women are not blindsided by this disease, who want us all to know that you and your baby and your mental health and future health matters. All of the stories in The Preeclampsia Registry are helping this come to reality and to be a part of it is amazing.”

When asked what advice she would give to others who are considering volunteering with the Preeclampsia Foundation, Norlisa told us, “Come and volunteer...there is a place for you. Tell your story, share your experience with The Preeclampsia Registry and with other moms who have gone through preeclampsia. Your baby(ies) and you are a crucial part of fighting and eradicating this disease, and your story will help us do this. One of the greatest gifts of volunteering is meeting wonderful women, strong women, great moms. We are a support to each other and help each other realize you are not alone. To add ‘icing to the cake,’ besides meeting wonderful moms, the Preeclampsia Foundation staff is so sweet and supportive and will make volunteering even more fun!

“My twins are in high school and my youngest is eight—I fight this fight for them and their future,” said Norlisa. “Together let’s fight towards eradicating this disease.”

We couldn’t have said it better. Thank you Norlisa for your passion, dedication, and positivity that keeps us focused on the light at the end of the tunnel!

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