Mission Monday: Pennsylvania Family Experiences Dual Impact

March 31, 2014

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!

Bradley, Michelle and baby Alexandra

Bradley, Michelle and baby Alexandra

Michelle and Bradley Derry were expecting for the first time in 2012 and were thrilled  to find out that it was twin girls.

Michelle’s pregnancy was going pretty normally, until  21 weeks, when Michelle had a blood pressure reading of 125/80, which was high for her. She and her medical care providers dismissed it, since the reading was within “normal” range. But by almost 23 weeks, Michelle was unable to fit in her shoes and her blood pressure was at 135/85.

“I knew I had an appointment in a few days with maternal-fetal medicine, and convinced myself I would be told all was okay,” said Michelle. Unfortunately, things got rapidly worse. At the appointment, her BP had spiked to 145/95 and she had developed protein in her urine. They admitted her to the hospital immediately and put her on complete bed rest, but the severity of her symptoms continued to increase. An ultrasound and more blood work revealed that Michelle had developed HELLP syndrome. Delivery was the Derrys only option to save the lives of Michelle and her unborn twins.

At 23 weeks, 3 days, the Michelle and Bradley’s twin baby girls were born, neither weighing even a pound.

While her babies struggled in the neonatal intensive care unit, Michelle’s health crisis had not ended. She spent 3 days in the intensive care unit on magnesium sulfate, as medical providers struggled to bring her blood pressure down. She developed a blood clot in her leg, and was later diagnosed with antiphospholipid syndrome, a sticky blood autoimmune condition. She also developed acute tachycardia (a heartbeat that exceeds the normal range).

On top of Michelle’s personal medical struggles, the twins faced a long uphill struggle. Devastatingly, Elissa Derry passed away 5 days after birth. Her sister Alexandra fought for 9 and a half months, but thankfully got to go home. She is still trached and g-tube fed, but is slowly making steady progress. Happily, her vent was recently removed. Nevertheless, the Derry family live in fear of germs, worried that Alexandra will get sick and delay her progress, which also means that some family members have never even gotten to meet her yet.

Michelle continues to struggle from the long-term impact of her struggle with HELLP syndrome, requiring daily medication and monthly blood clotting test for the rest of her life. She is also at far higher risk for cardiovascular disease throughout the rest of her life, and must carefully monitor her blood pressure.

In May of 2012, Michelle’s mom read about the Lehigh Valley Promise Walk for Preeclampsia in her local newspaper.  She immediately contacted walk coordinator Dawn Detweiler, a fellow preeclampsia survivor, who welcomed them warmly and provided them emotional support to process all that had happened.  For the first time the family did not feel so alone.

Now the Derry family is the 2014 Mission Family for the Lehigh Valley Promise Walk for Preeclampsia, and they hope Alexandra might be well enough to make her public debut at the walk. Even if Alexandra may not be ready to venture out to the walk, her family will be representing the cause as the face of the mission. You can join the Derry family at the Lehigh Valley Promise Walk on May 3 at the Forks Township Community Park by registering at http://www.promisewalk.org/lehighvalley.

“I want to help educate others about the dangers of preeclampsia and HELLP,” said Michelle. “Life will never be the same as I knew it, but every day when I look at my daughter, I know it was all worth it. I am so glad to be a part of the Promise Walk!”


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