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Runner Races to Represent Preeclampsia Survivors Everywhere

July 30, 2014
Click this photo to help Natalie make it on the cover of Runner's World Magazine!

Click this photo to vote and help Natalie make it on the cover of Runner’s World Magazine!

At age seven, Natalie Mitchell would watch her dad get up and run 14 miles to work every day. By her freshman year in high school, she was running track as a sprinter, but one day, her coach advised: “I really think you should try running on the cross country team.”

She has never stopped running since.

So at the beginning of her first pregnancy, she couldn’t imagine anything going wrong. She was super healthy, taking great care of herself, and was even able to keep up her running for a while in the first trimester.

“At about week 30 of my pregnancy, I started experiencing slight symptoms: headaches, a bit of swelling and an increase in my blood pressure,” said Natalie. She had a great Ob/Gyn who monitored her closely, and as the symptoms progressed at 33 weeks to major swelling, high protein in her urine and severe headaches, he brought in a specialist.

Her son Joshua was born at 34 weeks on March 7, 2007 at 3 pounds, 14 ounces, with a NICU team standing by to whisk him away for care.

“It was all very dramatic and not at all like I imagined,” said Natalie. “The thought of not bringing our baby home right away… it was unimaginable. For the first time ever, I remember feeling like my body had failed me.”

Natalie would go on to have preeclampsia with her second and third pregnancies as well, delivering daughter Megan at 36 weeks and daughter Elle at 32 weeks. In both cases, Natalie and the babies faced life-threatening conditions.

But despite all that, Natalie has kept running, including 5 marathons and training for her sixth in September. She wants to show herself, her children and other moms that preeclampsia cannot keep her down; that a woman can do anything that she put her mind to.

To help spread that message, Natalie is now working to represent ALL preeclampsia survivors on the cover of Runner’s World magazine, a publication devoted to runners around the country. It will be the first time a everyday runner will be featured on the cover.

When asked why she wants to be on the cover of the magazine, Natalie explains that she will represent moms everywhere. “It’s not an easy job being a mom and making time to work out. I have been in awe of so many women that I meet and I see them doing just that and accomplishing amazing things. They are my inspiration and motivation and I hope that I can do the same for someone else.”

She needs your help! Supporters can vote once a day by visiting her cover contest page and voting via your Facebook or Twitter login. Make sure you go through the “Inspiring Word” screen to ensure your vote has been counted. Voting runs through August 15, when the magazine will pull the top 5 women and top 5 men to review. You see the total number of  votes go up by one, then you know your vote was counted. Natalie needs around 4,000+ votes to put her in the top running.

We’d love to see Natalie make the front cover to support preeclampsia awareness!

“I run every day because it makes me feel alive and unstoppable. I am a better Mom, wife, friend, and a better person. Running truly makes me happy.”

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Employer Matching Gifts Double Your Impact!

July 18, 2014

matching_giftLast year, employer matching contributions donated during the 2013 Promise Walk season exceeded $10,000! With the 2014 Promise Walk season nearing it’s conclusion on August 31, it’s time to consider how your employer might support the Preeeclampsia Foundation’s mission.

An Employer Matching Gift Program is one where an employer matches an employee’s charitable donation, usually dollar for dollar. Some companies call this a Cash Grants Program or a Matching Grants Program. These Gift Programs can quickly multiply the impact of one employee’s donation, often quite substantially. In some cases an employer may even match up to 2 or 3 times that of the employee’s donation. But even a 1:1 match is incredibly impactful. Along with matching monetary donations, some employers even have programs wherein the company will match qualified volunteer hours with an assigned cash amount.

It is the responsibility of employees to get the “Matching Gift” process started with their employers. Some employers provide their Company Match Program guidelines online, or will supply the information through the Human Resources office. There are even companies that will match donations of retirees or employee spouses. Most employers make this process relatively simple, usually requesting minimal documentation (normally only requiring an official donation receipt as well as completion of a quick online form or a one-page matching gift form).

Most employers stipulate minimum or maximum annual donation amounts, and may have other specific requirements, as well. It is the company’s choice as to how the Matching Gift Program is constructed. But any amount of matching gift will make a positive impact on a charitable foundation.

Please investigate your employer’s policies, and ask your friends and family members to research their employers’ giving program policies as well! Let us know if we can help.

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New Jersey Teens Honor Mom by Leading Awareness

June 13, 2014
Pat, Justin and Cameron Dignan speaking at the 2014 Cranford, NJ Promise Walk.

Pat, Justin and Cameron Dignan speaking at the 2014 Cranford, NJ Promise Walk.

With Father’s Day coming up this weekend, it gives us time to reflect on the father’s side of the preeclampsia patient experience. As medical professionals scramble to save the lives of mom and babies, these dads are often left feeling bereft and helpless.

In the worse of circumstances, a dad may face the loss of a partner, child or both.

For Patrick Dignan and his 16-year-old twin sons Cameron and Justin, Father’s Day holds a special significance. Their dad Pat is the only parent they had the privilege to get to know. Their mother, Donna, passed away on September 1, 1997 due to severe HELLP syndrome, shortly after giving birth to the twins.

“I’ve been dealing with the impact of this disease for 16 years now and will for the rest of my life,” said Patrick Dignan. “It’s left an enormous hole in my life and the lives of my sons.” He describes how the twins’ curiosity about their mom has turned into a deep sense of loss, which will be with them for the remainder of their lives.

Seeking more information about his wife’s death in the early 2000s, Pat Dignan turned to the Preeclampsia Foundation as a source of support and information. He found that he was not alone. Since then, he has volunteered in many capacities to further education on the life-threatening condition of pregnancy, including serving on the Foundation Board of Directors and as the 2011 Saving Grace — A Night of Hope gala chair. He is also the proud and active captain of “Team Dignan” for the annual Cranford, NJ Promise Walk for Preeclampsia.

But the service that Pat is most proud of is that of Justin and Cameron, who are following in their father’s volunteering footsteps. Beginning in 2012, the boys volunteered at the Cranford walk, and were honored this year to serve as the 2014 Cranford, NJ Promise Walk Mission Family. At the event, the boys and their father spoke to the crowd about the lifelong impact that preeclampsia has had on their lives. (You can hear them speak by watching the 2014 Cranford Promise Walk program video; Dignans’ speech beginning at 18:00)

“We do this in recognition that our mother’s life legacy is us,” Justin and Cameron explained. The Dignan boys appreciate how their family’s experience can help others dealing with preeclampsia. Through the family’s efforts over the years, the Dignans’ story has provided comfort to numerous families who have experienced the loss of a wife, mother, daughter, daughter-in-law or sister to preeclampsia.

“The compassion these boys have for families that have been affected by preeclampsia is wonderful to see,” said Cranford Walk Coordinator Stephanie Steiner, who is assisted at the walk by her own teenaged daughter, Marissa. “I love seeing how the next generation is really taking this cause to heart to save the lives of moms and babies.”

The Cranford, NJ walk continues to be a leading national walk, this year raising over $32,000. To see a awesome overview of the event, check out this short YouTube video!

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Eclampsia Survivor Joins the Walk to Raise Awareness in Kansas City

May 21, 2014

Kansas_city_WeaverFamilyThe summer of 2009 was flying by for  Meghan Weaver: she was the director of the colorguard unit at a local high school and they were finishing up band camp the first week of August.  It was her first pregnancy.  For the past month or so, Meghan’s ankles were swollen, but she didn’t think much of it, as she thought it was just a normal pregnancy symptom and she had been out in the heat for band practices.

On Thursday, August 6th, Meghan had a routine checkup.  The nurse noticed her protein levels in the urine were a little elevated, along with her blood pressure.  They ordered Meghan to do a 24 hour urine test, just to be safe.  They never mentioned being worried that she was developing preeclampsia.

Over the weekend, Meghan developed an extreme headache that wouldn’t go away even with medicine.  Instead of calling the doctor, she thought she would just tough it out and wait till the urine test results came back on Tuesday.

By Tuesday morning, Meghan had started having some unusual difficulties: the shower was running, but she stood there, unable to remember what to do. She managed to get to work, but her father, for whom she worked, immediately noticed something was very wrong. HE too her blood pressure and the numbers shocked him. He took it again to be sure.

Meghan’s blood pressure was in the 190s over 140s. He had her call her doctor and drove her immediately to her doctor’s office.

By the time they got there, Meghan could barely walk and the nurses had to get her a wheelchair.  They then called the lab to get the urine test results.  Meghan was told that they flag it at 300 – her results were over 3,000!  A nurse immediately wheeled Meghan to the hospital across the street.

The next thing Meghan knew, she was in the ICU and that’s the last thing she remembered. Meghan had three grand mal, code blue seizures.  The doctors immediately performed a c-section in attempts to save Meghan’s life and the life of her daughter, Mackenzie.

Mackenzie Weaver was delivered at 29 weeks through emergency c-section within 15 minutes of arriving at the hospital.  She weighed in at 2 pounds 9 ounces.  The doctors worked hard to get Meghan’s blood pressure under control.  Meghan spent 4 days in the ICU, and a total of 11 days in the hospital.  Through numerous tests, the doctors also found Meghan had Peripartum Cardiomyopathy.

Happily, Meghan and Mackenzie survived, with Mackenzie spending 5 weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Meghan realizes how fortunate she is to have survived.  To have gone from a normal pregnancy, to preeclampsia and then to eclampsia within a week or less and to make it out healthy was a blessing.  If Meghan had not listened to her body, everything could have easily turned out worse.

This is the first year the Weavers have participated with the Kansas City, MO Promise Walk for Preeclampsia.

“I want to share my story, and if it helps just one woman and her family, then everything I went through will have all been worth it,” said Meghan.  The Weavers are the Mission Family for the 2014 Promise Walk for Preeclampsia in Kansas City on Saturday, May 31: join them by visiting www.promisewalk.org/KansasCity.

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Fundraise and Win this Amazing Prize!

April 25, 2014

strollerWe have an incredibly fun announcement for all our 2014 Promise Walk for Preeclampsia participants in honor of May as Preeclampsia Awareness Month.

We will be giving away this amazing Mima Kobi Stroller in Snow White, generously provided by our national partner BabyCenter, to one lucky 2014 fundraising participant. It includes a number of great features, including:

  • Adjustable and easy to fold
  • Light and compact
  • Innovative EVA material that is easy to clean
  • Satisfies the different evolutionary phases of your family life

Valued at $1220, this is an incredible prize for one lucky winner! Since we know that not everyone needs a stroller, all individual Promise Walk participants are invited to opt into the contest according to the following rules.

Rules of the contest:

  1. Raise at least $200 individually to qualify.
  2. Provide your walk site, first name, last name, email address, team name and current fundraising total on the submission form.
  3. You only have to submit your name once to be eligible for the drawing, but you are eligible to have your name in the drawing one time for every $200 you raise for your walk site!
  4. All funds raised from January 1, 2014 through May 30, 2014 count toward your number of entries.
  5. Contest ends on May 30, 2014 and the winner will be announced on May 31, 2014 to help us close out May as Preeclampsia Awareness Month.
  6. Must be a registered participant in any local community or virtual Promise Walk location to qualify.
  7. All contest entries will get a written thank you via the blog on the week of June 2, 2014.

We are incredibly thankful for the amazing community who is so passionate about this issue. Now go win this incredible prize!

Enter the stroller giveaway contest!

 

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Organic is Not the Whole Story

April 23, 2014

Although nutritional supplements or eating certain foods won’t cause or prevent preeclampsia, the best available research supports women reducing their risk by going into their pregnancies as healthy as possible. Guest blogger and registered dietician Amy Marlow of Happy Family Organic Superfoods suggests one way you can help accomplish that goal.

Nutrients for pregnancy and beyond by Amy Marlow, MPH, RD, CDN

Amy Marlow with her family.

Dietician Amy Marlow with her family.

Pregnancy is a great time to choose organic foods, grown and produced without the use of synthetic pesticides, genetically modified organisms, and artificial hormones. Developing babies are particularly vulnerable to the effects of the exposures to chemicals like pesticides given how small their bodies are and their rapid rate of growth. That’s why experts believe that the benefits of organic food are greatest for pregnant women and babies.

Eating organic is not the whole story, though, because the fact that a food is organic doesn’t automatically make it healthy. Plenty of organic foods lack essential nutrients that you and your baby need.   And, foods made from organic ingredients may still be highly processed and full of too much sugar or saturated fat.

So yes, choose organic, but also choose foods that give you even more. Look for foods that contain the following key nutrients needed during pregnancy and lactation:

  • Choline – Needed in higher amounts during pregnancy and breastfeeding; an essential vitamin that plays a key role in baby’s brain development. Found in eggs, meats, and fortified foods.
  • DHA and other Omega-3 fats – Essential healthy fats are the building block of baby’s brain and eyes. DHA is found in algae, fish (e.g., wild salmon), and may be found in fortified foods. Other sources of omega-3s include flaxseed oil, chia seed, and walnuts.
  • Vitamin D – Crucial for your bone health and your baby’s bone development. Unfortunately, nature’s best source is the ultraviolet rays of the sun, which most of us try to limit. Found in eggs, fortified dairy, and other fortified foods.
  • Folic Acid – Prevents neural tube defects like spina bifida. The body doesn’t store folic acid so you need to get it every day. Found in fortified grains and cereals, leafy greens like spinach, broccoli, oranges, beans, peas, peanuts.
  • Iron – Produces hemoglobin for healthy oxygenation of the blood. A deficiency causes anemia (you should be tested during your second trimester). You need at least 15-30 mg per day, and this may be hard to get through food alone. Eat iron-rich foods like whole grains, beef, lentils, dark green leafy vegetables. Take an iron-fortified prenatal supplement, if recommended by your healthcare provider.
  • Superfoods: Ancient Grains and Seeds – Go beyond whole wheat and try quinoa, amaranth, chia seed, and millet. These provide healthy complex carbohydrates, essential amino acids, fiber, B vitamins, iron, and in some cases omega-3 fats and protein.

HFamily_High_Res_LogoA registered dietitian (RD), Amy Marlow also has a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Maryland. She worked as a pediatric dietitian at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, DC, where she provided nutrition care in the pediatric oncology unit, high-risk obstetrics ward, and the pediatric and neonatal intensive care units. In addition to her work with Promise Walk partner Happy Family Organic Superfoods, she manages the wellness program for a Fortune 500 company. Amy is the proud mother of Noah, Alana and Jonah.

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Mission Monday: Wisconsin Family Turns Tragedy to Hope

April 21, 2014
Jenny, Brian and Ken at the 2013 Richland Center Promise Walk.

Jenny, Brian and Ken at the 2013 Richland Center Promise Walk.

Mission Family Monday is when we take the opportunity to spotlight the real stories of families affected by preeclampsia, who have chosen to share that story in their local community to raise awareness of this cause. These individuals shine a spotlight on the work that the Preeclampsia Foundation supporters do through the Promise Walk for Preeclampsia. Please feel free to share this story in your own community!

Wisconsin native Jenny Johnsrud had been having a fairly normal pregnancy up through 38 weeks. Even her doctor confirmed that everything looked normal for an at-term delivery.

But on March 31, 2012, everything changed. Jenny could barely stand up straight at work; her head ached; she was nauseated and had a terrible pain in her stomach. Her husband Ken realized that something was not right. Bags in hand, they went to the doctor’s office at 11 pm that night.

Her blood pressure was extremely high, but worse, her blood work came back and confirmed the doctor’s suspicion: her blood platelet count was at 30,000. She had stage 3 HELLP syndrome.

Because the baby was so near term, they worked to induce labor naturally and try to avoid a C-section, since Jenny was at severe risk of hemorrhage. Happily after a few hours of laboring, Brian Johnsrud was born weighing a healthy 6 lbs., 6 oz.

Happily, Jenny’s vitals returned to near normal and Brian had only a short stay in the neonatal intensive care unit. Still, the Johnsrud family couldn’t believe how quick their pregnancy had gone from normal to life-threatening in a few short days.

“The Preeclampsia Foundation was such a big help for me during this experience,” said Jenny. She added that she was very well-informed and well read, but “I was taken aback when my Dr. said I had HELLP syndrome. I read and had an understanding ofthe PE part of it, but I had no idea what I was going through. It wasn’t until I was home after the birth of my son, that I researched HELLP. The Preeclampsia Foundation was the most informative site out there.”

Ken, Jenny, Brian and their new baby daughter Michelle will be leading the Richland Center, Wisconsin Promise Walk on May 10, 2014 at Krouskop Park with their team “McWalkers.” They are eager to help women know to take their symptoms seriously and immediately get to care.

“I don’t want to think about the outcome if I didn’t trust my gut that something wasn’t right,” said Jenny. “Bottom line: awareness saves lives.”

Join the Richland Center Promise Walk at www.promisewalk.org/richlandcenter.

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