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A Life-Threatening Disorder of Pregnancy Leads to Gratitude to Give Back

A Life-Threatening Disorder of  Pregnancy Leads to Gratitude to Give BackKansas City resident Heather Blegstad has become an advocate for raising awareness about preeclampsia after a terrifying experience with her first pregnancy.

Like many women, Heather had never heard of preeclampsia until being diagnosed only 24 weeks into her pregnancy in 2010. Experiencing severe swelling and rib pain, Heather went to the local emergency room, where she was rushed via ambulance to a nearby hospital with a high level neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and diagnosed with severe preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome. Her son Omi was born via emergency C-section weighing a mere 1 lb, 11 oz.

Heather was kept in the hospital for six days as she fought for her life against a failing liver and kidneys. Four months later, Heather was finally allowed to take Omi home: weighing a healthy 7 lbs, 13 oz.

In gratitude for her healthy baby, Heather is leading a team at the 2nd annual Kansas City Promise Walk for Preeclampsia™  being held on Saturday, May 18th, with all proceeds benefiting the Preeclampsia Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to reducing maternal and infant illness and death due to preeclampsia.

What is Preeclampsia?
Preeclampsia, sometimes referred to by its older name, toxemia, is a life-threatening disorder of pregnancy and the post partum period that affects both the mother and the unborn baby. One in 12 pregnant women in the United States will be diagnosed with preeclampsia: nearly 300,000 women each year. Worldwide, by conservative estimates, nearly 76,000 mothers and half a million babies die each year because of preeclampsia.

“Preeclampsia is typically diagnosed in the last trimester of pregnancy but can occur as early as 20 weeks,” said Tom Easterling, M.D., University of Washington School of Medicine. “It is characterized by elevated blood pressure and protein in the urine.”

Symptoms of Preeclampsia
“Symptoms such as headaches, excessive swelling, and stomach pain, all signs of preeclampsia, can often be dismissed by mothers-to-be as normal discomforts of pregnancy,” said Easterling.  “Since the disease can accelerate quickly, pregnant women should contact their medical provider immediately if they have any concerning symptom.”

No one knows what causes preeclampsia; there are no definite ways to prevent it. And, as of now, the only “treatment” begins with delivery: a problematic solution, since preeclampsia can occur as early as 20 weeks, and often requires premature delivery and its associated complications for the baby.

Possible Long Lasting Health Risks
Preeclampsia can also have long lasting health risks beyond the affected pregnancy: women with preeclampsia have a 40% increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and may experience other long-term health issues. The American Heart Association guidelines for cardiovascular disease in women now includes a history of preeclampsia as an increased risk factor to develop heart problems (cardiovascular disease, stroke or other conditions) five to 15 years after pregnancy.

For Heather Blegstad, this hits too close to home: she is still on medication today for high blood pressure, although never suffering from high blood pressure before being diagnosed with preeclampsia.

The Promise Walk for Preeclampsia™  
Making Strides and Delivering Hope
May has been established as National Preeclampsia Awareness Month and is being recognized in local communities with the Promise Walk for Preeclampsia™ to raise public awareness.

Heather is extremely grateful that she and her family were fortunate in their outcomes, but she also knows that may others don’t have the knowledge they need to recognize the warning signs and seek help before it’s too late.

To join Heather and her family in raising awareness of preeclampsia at the Kansas City Promise Walk, please visit

We walk to raise awareness…
Too few know the reality and impact of preeclampsia, a life-threatening disorder of pregnancy that affects both the mother and the unborn baby. Yet preeclampsia is not rare. It happens in as many as one in 12 pregnancies. And any woman can be affected, regardless of her race, ethnic background, skin color, size, hometown, or whether she is rich, poor, or somewhere in the middle. Even good health and healthy habits aren’t a guarantee of protection against this disorder.

We walk to save lives…
Awareness can lead to timely diagnosis and more diligent health care. In most cases, if a woman and her doctors realize she has preeclampsia, and it is close to her due date, the baby can be delivered with relatively few problems to either mom or baby.

But sometimes – by some estimates, in about 25% of the cases – serious complications can occur.

Preeclampsia affects the mother’s kidneys, liver, brain and other vital organs and can lead to seizures, bleeding in the brain, organ failure, and even death. The baby may suffer from the effects of being born too early, have growth restriction—or may die.

We also now know that women who have had severe preeclampsia go on—at much higher rates than the average woman—to have heart disease and other long-term health issues. You can read more about preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy on our website.

We walk to find a cause and a cure…
No one knows yet what causes preeclampsia. There are no definite ways to prevent it. Nor is there a cure. But through research and the efforts of families and those affected, we are making progress. We have a better understanding today than we had even 10 years ago.

Those of us who have survived or lost a loved one to preeclampsia have promised not to remain unchanged by the experience, but to do all we can to make a difference for others. The Preeclampsia Foundation is making strides and delivering hope—and the Promise Walk is a big part of that.

We walk with you…
When you participate in The Promise Walk for Preeclampsia, you are taking meaningful strides to save mothers and babies during the most important time in their shared lives, and helping to ensure good health for the rest of their life’s journey. Help us deliver hope today and fulfill our promise to deliver a cure for tomorrow.

The money you raise supports the educational programs of the Preeclampsia Foundation that help moms get the information they need for the healthiest pregnancy outcomes. It also funds research and catalyzes new researchers to embrace this important field of study.

Every stride brings us closer to ensuring healthy pregnancies for all women, and delivers hope to millions of families around the world.

2013 Kansas City Promise Walk for Preeclampsia™

When:   Saturday, May 18, 2013

Where:  Blue Springs High School (track & field area)
2000 NW Ashton Drive
Blue Springs, MO 64015

What:    This year is a one mile family fun walk!

Time:    9:00 AM: Shirt pick up, late walk up registration and Silent Auction
10:00 AM:     Opening ceremony and walk starting*

Activities:   Kid Activities, Silent Auction and Attendance Raffle

Register before March 22, 2013 to ensure a walk t-shirt!!!

Be sure to “LIKE” The Promise Walk for Preeclampsia-Kansas City on Facebook for up to
the minute information on the walk.

Walk Contact for More Details
For more questions, comments, to volunteer, to inquire about sponsorships or to donate items for the silent auction and/or raffle, please contact:
AMY HODAPP, Kansas City Promise Walk Coordinator

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