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Downton Abbey Spawns Preeclampsia Awareness

If you don’t know already, I love Downton Abbey. Or at least I DID until they killed off my beloved Sybil.  Sybil, a loving wife, and the family suffragette, dies after childbirth after showing clear signs of preeclampsia.  To be sure, preeclampsia is a dangerous condition, even to this day, but can be treated if caught early.  I love to help my friends and when my friend Sarah asked me to help I jumped at the chance to bring some awareness.  You’ll see that unlike Sybil from Downton Abbey, Sarah’s story has a better ending.  Here’s Sarah to tell her story…

We mothers are so used to being the nurturers and caregivers that very often we make light of what we are feeling in order to continue on with the routine.  So when I woke up 6 days after my c-section unable to catch my breath, with blurry vision and a dull headache I thought I was just tired. I had a newborn and a toddler, I didn’t have time to think something was wrong with me or what I could do to fix it, but my husband Rob insisted I call my OBGYN.

Hayley was my second baby.  She arrived full term via scheduled c-section on October 25th.  Our little princess had arrived and even my son Derek, at just 26 months old, was thrilled for our family.  I was released from the hospital and spent two days in that post baby honeymoon phase. When I agreed to called my OBGYN I was surprised at the stern immediacy in her voice when she insisted I get to the hospital right away.

 

041813 preeclampsia derek and haley meet

 

My in-laws rushed over and I kissed my babies good-bye trying to be strong but unable to hold back the tears. Derek was going to be a fireman for Halloween that day, plus my brand new Hayley Jane, I needed to be home and dress Hayley in pink and cuddle herwould she forget me? Would we never bond? I didn’t realize then that it would be 3 hellish days till I saw them again.

Preeclampsia.  I heard the word, I knew it had to do with pregnancy and headaches and blood pressure (mine was 220/110)…but I wasn’t pregnant!!!!  There I was, a mother of two, about to be hooked up to a Magnesium IV so I wouldn’t have a seizure or stroke due to preeclampsia and I had NEVER even heard of having preeclampsia postpartum!

A very sweet nurse sat down next to me and grabbed my hand firmly. She asked me to tell her what I was thinking.  I told her, “I’m scared, I just want to be home with my babies and I’m nervous what will happen to me and I’m afraid that I might die”.  That was the honest truth, I was petrified that I would seize and die.

The first night I was on the magnesium I saw 5 of everything. I had to wear an oxygen tube because my oxygen saturation levels kept dropping so low that every time I would drift into sleep I would wake up gasping for my breath. I was pumping every two hours, unable to get out of bed and hooked up to a catheter.

I felt so sick, oh so sick. The magnesium makes you so so so sickly feeling.  After I came off the Magnesium I felt “better”. My blood pressure was still high but low enough that I could go home eventually.

It took a few weeks for my BP and me to get back to normal. I feel so lucky that my preeclampsia story only involves me and that Hayley was unharmed by it all.  Most people aren’t so lucky since Preeclampsia is the leading known cause of prematurity.

 

041813 preeclampsia  me and Hayley the day we left the hospital

 

 

Thousands of women and babies die or get very sick each year from this dangerous condition called preeclampsia, a life-threatening disorder that occurs only during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Affecting at least 5-8% of all pregnancies, preeclampsia and related disorders such as HELLP syndrome and eclampsia are most often characterized by the presence of protein in the urine and a rapid rise in blood pressure that can lead to seizure, stroke, multiple organ failure and death of the mother and/or baby. Swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches and changes in vision are important symptoms; however, some women with rapidly advancing disease report few symptoms.

Typically, preeclampsia occurs after 20 weeks gestation (in the late 2nd or 3rd trimesters or middle to late pregnancy), though it can occur earlier. Proper prenatal care is essential to diagnose and manage preeclampsia. Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH) and toxemia are outdated terms for preeclampsia. Globally, preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death. The Preeclampsia Foundation www.preeclampsia.org the only non-profit in the US devoted to hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, serving the 10 million women worldwide who develop preeclampsia each year.

 

 

041813 preeclampsia the whole happy family

 

In the 5-15 years after having had preeclampsia I am now twice as likely to develop heart disease. According to the Preeclampsia Foundation there are an estimated 4.5M US women alive today who are at risk to die from Cardio Vascular Disease or stroke because of their preeclampsia history.  Both Hayley and Derek’s future wife are at a higher risk for developing preeclampsia because yes it is hereditary.  I have hope that one day we will find a cause and a cure for preeclampsia.  I will forever being trying to help in the education of preeclampsia and raise money for The Preeclampsia Foundation.  I am the volunteer walk coordinator for the Promise Walk for Preeclampsia Philadelphia/South Jersey.  May is officially Preeclampsia Awareness Month.  Won’t you join our walk on Saturday, May 11th, 2013 at Challenge Grove Park in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.  We walk on Mother’s Day Weekend to celebrate Mothers and Babies!! If you aren’t local to the Philadelphia area you can find a walk  closer to you at www.promisewalk.org/philadelphia We can’t do it alone!

 

About SarahI grew up in Staten Island, New York.  When I escaped working in New York City for a new life in Philadelphia I started dating my now husband Rob. We have two children, Derek is 4 and Hayley is 2. Finnegan is our 5 year old Australian Shepherd and really more like a third child than a dog. All of our children love to sleep in our bed!! I am a [email protected] Champion and a Preeclampsia Foundation Walk Coordinator.  I blog over at www.finneganandthehughes.com

Wow, Sarah’s story is scary but does have a happy ending.  Sarah’s kids are characters too; I see them on Facebook dressed up like Spiderman and I would love to meet them one day and hang out.  Am I too old to be Spiderman? And their dog Finnegan? He’s adorbs!

 

By Pam

My passion is advocating for diversity in children's and YA literature.

7 replies on “Downton Abbey Spawns Preeclampsia Awareness”

OMG Pam, THANK YOU!!! You can dress up as Spiderman whenever you want!! Derek and Hayley would LOVE IT!!!

Thank you for sharing this story. I, too, loved Downton Abbey. But I didn’t watch this past season, because I heard what happened to Lady Sybil. It was just too emotional for me – just over a year ago, I lost my daughter to preeclampsia, and I was very sick. I knew it would be too much for me to watch the show.

I’m so glad that Sarah is sharing her story & helping to raise awareness. I’ll also be walking in my local Promise Walk, in memory of my little Margaret. Preeclampsia is so awful, so the more people know about it, the more babies and moms can be saved.

And, as a side note, while I found you through this posting, I am a huge reader, and look forward to reading your blog again!

Oh Kelly, I’m so SORRY for you loss. What a brave woman you are to be able to do the Promise Walk. I’m honored you shared your story on my site. Thank you.

Thank you to you and Sarah for spreading awareness. I had NO idea you could get preeclampsia post partum. I hope many women read and share her story!

Thank you Sarah and Pam for sharing Sarah’s story. I had a tough time watching that episode. I could see the frustration and desperation on the characters’ faces. It was too close and personal. Like Carrie, I had no idea you could develop preeclampsia post partum, even 6 days later.

i’VE never known anyone who had it; i just remembered being tested for it. i’m so glad it’s preventable!

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