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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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