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The Promise Walk for Preeclampsia comes to Southwest Louisiana

February 25, 2015

New Walk Wednesday is an opportunity for our amazing supporters to meet the caring individuals who accomplish our mission in your local communities. Today’s guest blogger is Rita Cruse, a grandmother determined to make a difference in the families who have experienced loss because of preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome and new coordinator of the Lake Charles, Louisiana Promise Walk for Preeclampsia. After her daughter’s heartbreaking experience with HELLP syndrome, she decided to make a difference in her community (www.promisewalk.org/LakeCharles):

Katie and Chris, happily married.

Katie and Chris, happily married.

Our story begins in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in February of 2012 when the two lives of my daughter and son-in-law became one at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd. In the fall of that year, these two young people would move away from their families to begin their lives together in West Texas. Much to everyone’s happiness, they found they would be blessed with a baby boy the following summer.

Katie, our daughter, is our only child. It was May 2013, and Katie’s dad and I had just returned home after my cataract surgery when his phone rang. We thought Katie was calling to check on me. We couldn’t possibly have grasped the gravity of the situation when she had called us earlier that morning to tell us that she was on her way to see a doctor at the perinatologist’s office.

She told her daddy that she needed us. Now. Her baby son, Griffin’s, tiny heart had stopped beating. Katie was severely ill; her body was being overwhelmed with what we now know was a severe variant of preeclampsia called HELLP Syndrome.

We drove the twelve hours to West Texas from Southwest Louisiana in a haze, not understanding how we came to this place. How could this have happened? Babies didn’t die before they were born. Mommas don’t have to fight for their lives because of pregnancy. Not at 30 weeks. Not in 2013.

We arrived at the hospital in the early morning hours of the Friday before Mother’s Day. When we walked into the room my husband was almost knocked to his knees. Our daughter was so swollen that her eyes were almost shut. All we could do was hug her and reassure her as she began grieving her son, feeling so guilty that her body had betrayed the two of them. A few hours later, the most amazingly beautiful little boy was delivered. We and Griffin’s other set of grandparents, who had driven from Southeast Texas, had a chance to hold and kiss on him before we left the room to give our daughter and her husband the time they needed to huddle together and love on their little one.

I would not wish the days that followed on anyone. Leaving the hospital with a teddy bear and an urn instead of a sweet little baby is unthinkable. Having your milk come in without the baby boy for whom it was intended was heart-wrenching.

When Katie and Chris consulted with another maternal fetal medicine specialist with whom she shared her records, he was able to tell her that she had suffered from early-onset, undiagnosed preeclampsia which turned into HELLP Syndrome. Katie had known that things weren’t as they should be, and like so many others, she called her doctor’s office and was told that all of her symptoms were “entirely normal”… until it was too late.

We were all devastated and determined to join in the fight against preeclampsia/HELLP Syndrome in hopes that another baby could be saved, that another family could be spared this heartache.

Team Griffin at the 2014 Dallas Promise Walk.

Team Griffin at the 2014 Dallas Promise Walk.

To celebrate Griffin’s first birthday, a group of family and friends from Texas and Louisiana met in Dallas to participate in the 2014 Dallas Promise Walk for Preeclampsia. Upon returning home, several of Katie’s friends told me how much they wished they could have participated with us, but that the distance was too great. Would we considered doing an event here at home, where they could gather around Katie and Chris to “love up on” them? How could we bring awareness to our own community to help save lives?

That was the beginning of the dream of the first annual Lake Charles Promise Walk for Preeclampsia. We look forward to being able to welcome many other families who have encountered this awful disease to form a community of survivors.

We are hoping to attract families from all over Southwest Louisiana and Southeast Texas to our walk at Drew Park in Lake Charles, Louisiana on May 23, 2015. A walk and possibly a fun run are planned with a time set aside for sharing and remembering mothers and babies who have been lost followed by a simple picnic lunch. Please come join us for what we expect to be a South Louisiana good time of fellowship and recognition!

Register today at www.promisewalk.org/lakecharles.

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