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Surviving Preeclampsia: How Maternal Health Became My Passion

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As mothers, we are so used to being caregivers that sometimes, we don’t pay attention to our own health. I woke up one morning and knew something was wrong. It was only 6 days after my second child was born, so I wasn’t surprised to be feeling exhausted, but this seemed different. I felt short of breath and was having difficulty focusing my eyes. I told my husband that I felt off and he insisted I call the doctor. My doctor told me that I needed to get to the emergency room right away, which really worried me.

When I was pregnant I researched everything from the best car seats to what type of laundry detergent I should use on my baby’s clothing. What I didn’t research turned out to be the one thing that almost killed me…preeclampsia. I spent 3 long days in the ICU away from my children, hooked up to a magnesium sulfate IV to avoid a seizure, and scared of what could happen to me.

According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, thousands of women and babies die or get very sick each year from this dangerous condition. Preeclampsia is a life-threatening disorder that occurs in up to 1 in 12 women during pregnancy and the postpartum period.

October 31, 2014 marked the 4 year anniversary of the day I was diagnosed with preeclampsia. I was left with so many questions about what happened to me – how, why and what now? While searching for answers I found the Preeclampsia Foundation. I read their message boards filled with women like me that were desperate for answers about what they just went through. I noticed that the Preeclampsia Foundation had an awareness walk, but it wasn’t close enough to my home. It was at that moment that I knew I not only wanted to, but I needed to bring the Promise Walk to my

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My whole adult life I have found myself moved by certain causes. I like knowing that I am making a difference to people near or far. But The Promise Walk for Preeclampsia is different.I feel like I am making a difference in my own life, in my children’s lives and in the lives of all my new friends. It gives me strength and determination to achieve like I have never felt before. The Promise Walk helps me gain a bit of control over an uncontrollable situation that left such a mark on my life.

In the 4 years since my diagnosis, I started up the Philadelphia South Jersey Promise Walk for Preeclampsia and have helped spearhead fundraising of over $70,000.00. My family and I are very involved in every aspect of the walk planning. The walk requires months of planning, calling, soliciting, begging for money and raffle prizes, but it all comes together for 4 incredible hours on a Saturday morning in May. The walk is filled with preeclampsia survivors, their friends and family.We are all happy and emotional together. The isolation we felt from our preeclampsia experience is gone. We are among others who suffered and survived. We are among others that know what we went through because they’ve lived it. Together we celebrate what we have overcome, yet we always, always remember who we have lost.

My family always comes first, and being able to advocate with them, for their future, makes my work all the more rewarding. Although my children don’t understand the depths of preeclampsia, I do teach them at their level of understanding about who, why and what we are walking for. They know we are raising money to give scientists to help save mommies and babies -I’m proud to stand side by side with my husband and children, and make a difference together.

Sarah Hughes grew up in New York and now calls New Jersey home. A mother of two, Derek (6) and Hayley (4), Sarah spends her days working at a University and nights playing with her children. In her “free” time Sarah enjoys reading, knitting, sewing, shopping and coffee. Visit Sarah at her own blog Finnegan and The Hughes, where she writes about parenting, kid friendly adventures and social good issues.

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