Sunday, April 18, 2010

For Dana & Kai

For Dana & Kai.

Last July I was sitting in one of my favorite old bars at the shore having a long overdue girls night out with my best friend, Christina.  Our parents were watching our children, who were (thankfully) fast asleep.  We reminisced over lukewarm Yuengling, oblivious to the goings on around us.  While trying to figure out an app on my phone that we’d been discussing, an e-mail came in.  The subject line read: It’s a girl!  Dana, one of my oldest friends in the world had delivered her little girl, Kai. I gasped aloud and grabbed Christina’s hand.  I know, not the usual response to a new baby.  But you see, I had just seen Dana the previous weekend and had done the ceremonial passing on of maternity and baby gear…Dana was only 29 weeks when I last saw her.  Baby Kai was born 10 weeks early via emergency c-section and weighed in at a mere 2 lbs.  Kai was in the NICU and 24 hours later, Dana had yet to see/hold her sweet baby.  I had a lump in throat.  I was frightened for my friend, for her baby, and for her husband.

It turns out Dana had developed preeclampsia and not just the regular version, but the more severe HELLP syndrome.  She had actually passed out at work when she had a sudden/severe onset.  To be honest, even though I had a baby, I didn’t really know what preeclampsia was, so I looked it up.

According to the Preeclampsia foundation and March of Dimes:

Preeclampsia is a disorder that occurs only during pregnancy and the postpartum period and affects both the mother and the unborn baby. It affects at least 5-8% of all pregnancies, and is a rapidly progressive condition characterized by high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine. Swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches and changes in vision are important symptoms; however, some women with rapidly advancing disease report few symptoms.

Typically, preeclampsia occurs after 20 weeks gestation (in the late 2nd or 3rd trimesters or middle to late pregnancy), though it can occur earlier. Proper prenatal care is essential to diagnose and manage preeclampsia. Preeclampsia, Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH) and toxemia are closely related conditions. HELLP Syndrome and eclampsia are other manifestations of the same syndrome. It is important to note that research shows that more women die from preeclampsia than eclampsia and one is not necessarily more serious than the other. 

Globally, preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death. By conservative estimates, these disorders are responsible for 76,000 maternal and 500,000 infant deaths each year.

After reading that I was really scared.  While in some cases doctors can manage the preclampsia, there is no cure for it. In a severe case like Dana’s, the body has such a toxic reaction to the baby the only way to stop it from killing both mother and child is to deliver the baby.

So as to not leave you hanging--there is a happy ending to this story.  Both Dana and Kai are healthy now and I can’t wait to see them next weekend at the shore when a group of us participate in the March for Babies.  But what happened to Dana made me realize how fortunate I had been. (I was going to say blessed, but that would imply that Dana wasn’t, and god knows that Dana (and the Aristone clan) are better Christians than I.)  Up until that point I really didn’t know anyone that had a severe, pregnancy related health problem or a high risk delivery.  In fact, my own delivery went so smoothly and quickly that I sort of thought of the whole thing as a relative cake walk.  Easy peasy, right?  It made me sort of cocky and in retrospect I definitely took my precious Sophia, and the fact that she was healthy, for granted.  Dana’s love for Kai seemed so much more fierce than mine and it made me feel both a little jealous and a bit guilty.  But I understand why she is that way (as much as someone who didn’t go through what she went through can) and instead of making silly comparisons I chose to use Dana as my role model and I began holding Sophia a little tighter and a little longer from then on.

Sophia is 18 months now (Kai is 9 month) and since Dana is in NYC and I’m in DC, she hasn’t met Kai yet.  But when she does this weekend at the March for Babies, Kai’s name will be familiar to her.  To this day we say “and god bless baby Kai” at the end of her prayers every night.  I can’t wait for them to grow up at the shore together.  Turns out Sophie and Kai are the exact age difference that Dana and I are (9 months).  While a big difference now, in a few years the age difference will mean nothing.  

I write all this in advance of next weekend’s March for Babies.  I will be participating in the 5 mile walk with Dana and nearly a dozen other family and friends on the Ocean City, NJ Boardwalk. 

The proceeds of the March for Babies benefits the March of Dimes. The mission of the March of Dimes is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality through research, education and advocacy.  More than half a million babies born too soon each year.   The March for Babies has been an annual event since 1970 and has raised an incredible $1.8 billion to benefit all babies. (.76 of every dollar goes to March of Dimes programs and research.)

I’d love for you to participate in the event (there are walks all over the country the same day) or make a donation to me/Team Kai. 

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