Volunteer Profile - December 2010
Becky Sloan, National Promise Walk for Preeclampsia 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 that ‘if I didn’t stop gaining weight, I would gain 70 lbs. before the pregnancy was over.’ I didn’t make it out of the office before I burst into tears. I felt awful, like no one cared, 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,’ and at 31 weeks, 6 days I went into code blue eclamptic seizures. I actually had a doctor’s appointment earlier in the day and was told to continue to take Tylenol for my excruciating headache and was sent home. Later that evening, I was home alone and called labor and delivery to ask for help. I was told I needed to go to the hospital to be assessed. I decided to drive myself to hospital so as not to bother anyone at that time of night, but not before getting sick in my driveway…another classic preeclampsia symptom. I had enough sense to know that I was not in my right mind but 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. I somehow made it through the city despite seeing stars, almost driving into parked cars, and weaving all over the road. I parked my car and walked into labor and delivery thinking they would put me on bed rest, but I was quickly escorted to a room and eleven short minutes later, I began seizing 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 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 in 2008, Brynn Holland, who arrived a month early due to sudden onset of preeclampsia.
Why do you volunteer for the Preeclampsia Foundation?
I volunteer because my family and I are some of the lucky ones. 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, or grandchild in order to make a difference. What happened to me wasn’t ok. My pregnancy ordeal should have never happened. My doctor was obviously incredibly uninformed about preeclampsia, which in turn made me unaware of the disease. I volunteer to raise awareness by telling my story. If my doctor would have known; if I had known the signs and symptoms, maybe my story would have been different and most likely I wouldn’t be volunteering. I guess you can say the Foundation was lucky in that respect!
What goals and dreams do you have for how the PF could inspire more Walk activities?
Ideally I would like to see walk coordinators not have to worry about finances and sponsors, and be able to focus more on participation and raising awareness. If the Promise Walk gained continuous national sponsorship support, our volunteer coordinators would be able to spend their invaluable time in the local community raising awareness and encouraging participants to walk rather than wondering how they are going to pay for their walk.
How aware were you about preeclampsia before/during your pregnancy?
I read the two or three sentences in What to Expect When You Are Expecting. I never heard a word about it from my OB throughout my entire pregnancy and certainly didn’t know that high blood pressure or swelling were symptoms associated with the disease.
What resources do you find most helpful to volunteers and Foundation members?
The Foundation gave me a starting point to figuring out what happened to me. Even after meeting with my doctor to get answers, I was told that my case was considered ‘a fluke.’ That was it… no responsibility taken for what happened or ‘we are sorry for your ordeal.’ It was strangely comforting to know I wasn’t alone and a place I could go to be miserable, not having to put on a fake, happy mommy face. The friends and collaborations I have made through this organization over the years are partially responsible for the healing I went through to ‘get over’ what happened to my family and me.
What has been your most gratifying moment as a Foundation volunteer?
I don’t know…tough question. Coordinating walks in San Diego while accepting the National Walk Director position this past year has been a lot of hard work, so I don’t think that I have had time to enjoy the success of the Promise Walks. I feel like I still have a lot of work to do, because we have many areas of the US that aren’t holding walks. I have high expectations for myself and for the Promise Walk, so I am not sure I have had my most ‘gratifying volunteer moment’ yet. I can say that I am very proud of the work I have done thus far and am hopeful that the work I am doing today, tomorrow, and in the future will bring me to that most gratifying moment. I guess maybe the day my daughter doesn’t have to worry about preeclampsia, I will feel that moment.