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Walk brings awareness, raises money for preeclampsia research

The Promise Walk for Preeclampsia is May 17. It brings awareness to the disorder, the leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death around the world.

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Miriam Vines, expecting her first child, chalked up her swollen legs back in 2011 to the result when you combine pregnancy with hot, humid North Carolina summers.

In fact, it was a sign that Vines had preeclampsia, a life-threatening illness that occurs only during pregnancy or postpartum. The illness eventually landed Vines in the hospital. Her baby, little Juliet, would be born more than two months before her due date.

"I didn't know anything about it until I had it," said Vines, whose daughter is now a happy, healthy, spunky and mischievous two-year-old. 

That's why Vines, who lives in Graham, and others will be participating in the fifth annual Raleigh Promise Walk for Preeclampsia on Saturday, May 17. The walk will be held at Apex Community Park, 2200 Laura Duncan Rd in Apex. The goal is to raise money to fund research, professional and patient education, provide family support, and increase awareness regarding the long-term impact of preeclampsia on women's cardiovascular health.  
Vines would like to see more information at doctor's offices and distributed to pregnant women so they know the warning signs. According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, preeclampsia is a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death around the world.

The foundation estimates that preeclampsia, along with other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, are responsible for 76,000 maternal and 500,000 infant deaths each year. They affect at least 5 percent to 8 percent of all pregnancies

Swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches and changes in vision are among the symptoms. They usually appear after about 20 weeks into the pregnancy and up to six weeks postpartum, according to the foundation. 

"You at least need to know the warning signs so you can call your doctor," Vines said. "I should have called at 28 weeks." 

Vines was enjoying what she called a "dream pregnancy" as she reached the 27th week of pregnancy. Then came the swollen legs to twice their normal size, along with popped blood vessels. She got her blood pressure checked at a local drug store where she was told she needed an emergency appointment. 

"I remember a nurse popping her head into the room at my OBGYN and asking in hushed tones, if I “had really gained 22 pounds in two weeks?” I remember being told that we should go over to the hospital for blood work and immediately being admitted and hooked up to machines. I remember being given a sleeping pill because my blood pressure was being monitored every 15 minutes. I remember the hope I clung to that I would get to go home on Monday and be ordered onto strict bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy. I remember the steroid injections that would boost my baby’s lung function, just in case I delivered prematurely," she writes about her experience.

Vines was eventually transferred from Durham Regional Hospital to Duke Medicine. There, reality began to sink in. Due in November, doctors starting talking to Vines about a September delivery. And they started talking about preeclampsia. 

In fact, Vines' November baby was actually born in late August after her conditioned worsened and the baby wasn't responding properly to tests. Juliet, who weighed just 2 pounds 10 ounces, came out screaming, a great sign that meant her lungs were strong despite her premature birth. 

Juliet Vines, age 2

Juliet would stay in the hospital until Oct. 27 when Vines and her husband were finally able to take her home. She weighed 5 pounds, 3 ounces.

"She is absolutely amazing," Vines said of her young daughter.

Vines and her husband recently made the decision that they wouldn't have another child. She risks a one in five chance of developing preeclampsia again during a second pregnancy. 

Vines hopes to bring awareness to the disorder so other expecting moms can get treatment as quickly as possible.

"I never had a chance to reflect on how terrified I was because I was worried about her," she said of her daughter. 

"We need more research," she said. "It's sudden. You can't cure it. Delivery is the only option." 

The fifth annual Raleigh Promise Walk for Preeclampsia is Saturday, May 17, at Apex Community Park in Apex.
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