Save a Mother Preserve a Family?

Adopting from Ethiopia made us realize how vital it was for Samuel that we stay extremely connected to Ethiopia. Not just the culture, but the actual country.

We understand the importance of taking trips as frequently as possible, and to put as much effort into causes we find important over there, as we do here.

Since having Aram, my goal has been aiding in reducing maternal mortality rates, particularly from hypertensive diseases of pregnancy in developing countries. I can’t imagine someone dying of something like Preeclampsia or HELLP Syndrome because of their geographical location.

Ethiopia is obviously close to our heart, and I’ve discovered the maternal mortality rate staggering. The most troubling part to me is how many children that end up in orphanages because there is only one living parent. To me, helping the orphan crisis is not about adopting, but about the biological parents being well (financially and healthfully)  to care for their children.

I started looking for nonprofits that were ethical and dedicated. This was so hard to find. Then I was introduced to the Liya Kebede Foundation by a friend in Los Angeles. I connected with them and I am so impressed by their professionalism and passion for what they are doing.
Here is some information on the foundation:

Liya Kebede is a supermodel that was born and raised in Ethiopia. She is now a Goodwill Ambassador for the World Health Organization. From her experiences with WHO she decided more needed to be done and started her own foundation. Her foundation is dedicated to saving the lives of mothers and children from pregnancy related causes.

Here is some information from their website:

Every minute, a woman dies from complications that arise during pregnancy or child birth and every minute, 20 children under the age of five years die. Most of these deaths could be prevented with access to basic health care.

Our Mission
There is something desperately wrong about dying while trying to give life.  The Liya Kebede Foundation is committed to ensuring that every woman, no matter where she lives, has access to life-saving care.  We work to educate policy makers and support programs that save lives in partnership with governments, non-governmental organizations, corporations and affected communities. Saving mothers’ lives requires the strategic coordination and deployment of resources, skilled doctors and midwives, ambulances, roads, clean sheets and basic medical tools, just to name a few.
We are dedicated to saving the next generation of mothers.
What We Do
We promote the use of proven, simple, low-cost strategies to save the lives of mothers and their children.
We educate health care workers and work to improve the quality and access to medical care for all mothers and children, no matter where they live.
We support community-based projects to improve knowledge and practices of maternal and child health in order to reduce illness and deaths.
We work to involve the public and advocate for policy makers and governments to invest in mothers’ lives.

So, they are pretty great. I wanted to do something, but I’m not sure what I could possibly do for them. I realized the party girl inside of me is still alive and kicking. I definitely can plan some pretty fun parties, and that gave me an idea. I am attempting to plan a charity event for them in the California Bay Area. Any interest in volunteering or attending, please contact me.

Happy Birthday Mr. Aram!

Today Aram turns Three!!!!!! (and coincidentally it is the day we officially accepted Samuel’s referral)

This day brings back a lot of wonderful and scary memories.

I remember getting ready to be released from the hospital when the nurses rushed in with a bag of magnesium sulfate. I knew what that meant- I was sick….as sick as I had suspected.

The only good doctor I had during my week stay, came in and said that my liver enzymes had tripled and my platelets had dropped and were going to continue to drop if we didn’t do a c-section immediately. He said he wanted to go into surgery in thirty minutes. I was so relieved that someone had taken me seriously, but I was also petrified.

thirty minutes was a bit of an exaggeration. Within five minutes I was in the operating room where there was a team of twelve waiting for me. The doctor rushed to delivery me and warned me I would only have a two pound baby.

Aram was born and weighed in at five pounds. Everyone was astonished. They showed him to me and he was the smallest little thing I’d ever seen. They whisked him away to the NICU and I stayed in the postpartum recovery area.

I was so sick I didn’t get to see him or hold him for three days.

Speed up three years and Aram is doing amazing!

You would never know he was born two months early.

One Year Ago Today…

Oh wow, so much has happened in the past few years.

On this date three years ago I was admitted into the hospital with these symptoms: Preterm labor, mildly elevated blood pressure, and a nose bleed that wouldn’t stop. Little did I know I was in the early stages of gestational hypertension that would develop into HELLP Syndrome.

The 18th has always been a very sad day for me because it was the day I felt like a failure. My body couldn’t do what it was designed to do. It not only let me down, but it also let my baby down.

I read that in order to move forward from a traumatic event you need to replace the awful memories with something joyful.

Skip ahead two years and on the 18th my day had finally arrived. We received our referral.

I replaced the impression of unconcerned doctors, impudent nurses, and the generally anxious feeling that I may be dying (and no one was taking notice)- with this:

The realization that the earth didn’t stop, there was more life coming into my life, and this was helping build a family as result of my union with Brian… was the best present God could have given to me on that day.

June 18th is once again happy.

The Changing World of HIV

Joan Rivers recently joked about charity work she was doing where she brings meals to people with HIV. She jokingly said how she was disappointed in her charity because the people weren’t sick anymore and no one was dying.

I love her inappropriate jokes that touch on reality. This one is no different.

People are starting to live longer and HIV/AIDs is becoming a chronic condition.

Unfortunately, the continent suffering the most is Africa. We all know that basic medical needs are barely met, so you can almost write off treatment for HIV in most impoverished areas.

Don’t believe the treatments work? Watch BOTH videos- Imagine your child in the place of this little girl and tell me you’re not going to do anything.


March has not been a good month. Hoepfully the peak of the horrific events will be AT’s febrile seizure. Goodness gracious that was awful. I think writing about it will be somewhat therapeutic.

I had downloaded the whole soundtrack to Twilight so I could the true version of Bella’s Lullaby from the movie. AT LOVES that song. $10 later I had one minute of a song, but it was worth it. Brian was at work and I put it on that night for AT and he wanted me to dance with him. I realized that these were going to be the last few months of only us and I needed to savor every special moment before our family got bigger. Of course, it will only get better when the new child comes home, but I realized the importance of being grateful for what life is like at the present time. Having him put his head on my shoulder while I pretend to waltz with him was incredibly sweet and it made me hope he will still want to dance with me when he grows up.

AT was not sleeping well two days before he seized. He was waking up complaining and I just assumed he had too many covers on him. He seemed fine when he woke up for the day except he coughed literally three times every time he woke up from a nap or from his bad night’s sleep.The dog was acting weird when he would wake up in the middle of the night, too. She would try and jump on our bed to get AT. She NEVER does that when he wakes up at night.

Brian decided to take him into the shower while I finished getting ready. I took AT out while Brian finished up and started dressing him. He was shivering and for some reason in my mind I thought “I hope he doesn’t have a seizure”- call if mother’s intuition or whatever, but it was weird. literally within a minute of thinking that he did start to have a seizure. I first was thinking “this really can’t be happening.” Brian explains what I did next as the worst noise he has ever heard in his life. I screamed his name in the most horrific way he leaped out of the shower and injured his leg pretty bad. We didn’t realize this till later. Brian was in panic mode and I (everyone knows I am NOT the calm one) held it together.

I cradled AT while Brian ran around trying to find the phone screaming. I was able to locate the phone, lay AT down on the carpeted floor, and call 911. He seized for ten horrific minutes and I thought he was dying. When you have no idea what is happening to your child it is really an out-of-body experience. Brian was panicked thinking he was dying and I was thinking , “here we go- everyone comments on what a happy sweet baby he is and it really is too good to be true, I don’t get to keep him.” Brian was uncontrollably crying and running around the house. There was a spurt of calmness where he came to  AT’s side and prayed.

The paramedics were sweet. Their thermometer was broken and it said AT did not have a fever. They said that a seizure like this makes no sense unless there is a temperature. He may have some neurological disorder, but sometimes not. They were trying to stay positive, but I could tell they were worried too.

On the ambulance ride I asked if it was possible he had pneumonia- twice. They said since he wasn’t coughing and he didn’t have a temperature they seriously doubted it.

We arrived at the closest hospital to our house. Everyone was great and I asked the doctor to do a chest X-ray (mother’s intuition)- sure enough he had pneumonia. He also had a temperature of 103. They said his temperature probably went from normal to 102 in VERY short amount of time (that was why he was shivering) causing the seizure.

Whew- so we knew he was going to be okay.

We took him to a pediatric neurologist yesterday, just to be on the safe side. He said that this is the peak time for children to have febrile seizures and he probably will never have another (after we gave him certain information)- However, we have rectal Valium (didn’t know they made that!) that we can administer to feel like we’re in control if he has another. He said he is perfectly healthy. We also learned at that visit that a person can seize for an hour without causing brain damage. The body is amazing and knows to pump all blood to the brain when we start to seize- that is why light skinned people appear blue. Amazing……

So- that is that. I hope I never have to witness that again.

What is HELLP Syndrome

I had this. I had no risk factors for it, I had no underlying disorders (70% of the population has at least 1 underlying disorder, but most go on to have a successful pregnancy), and I had no symptoms even at delivery. Time to get educated! Preeclampsia occurs in 12% of all pregnancies and HELLP occurs in 1 out of every 250 pregnancies.

HELLP syndrome is a serious complication of severe pregnancy-induced hypertension (high blood pressure problems of pregnancy). It occurs in about 2 percent to 12 percent of women with high blood pressure of pregnancy. It usually develops before delivery, but may occur postpartum (after delivery) as well. HELLP syndrome consists of the following problems:

  • hemolysis – red blood cells break down.
  • elevated liver enzymes – damage to liver cells cause changes in liver function lab tests.
  • low platelets – cells found in the blood that are needed to help the blood to clot in order to control bleeding.

What causes HELLP syndrome?

The cause of HELLP syndrome is unknown. Some conditions may increase the risk of developing HELLP syndrome, including the following:

  • preeclampsia during pregnancy
  • previous pregnancy with HELLP syndrome

Why is HELLP syndrome a concern?

In addition to the risks of high blood pressure during pregnancy, which include poor blood flow to organs and possible seizures, HELLP syndrome can cause other problems. The breakdown of red blood cells may cause anemia, and blood clotting problems may occur.

A serious blood clotting complication called disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) may lead to severe bleeding or hemorrhage. Placental abruption (early detachment of the placenta) may also occur. Pulmonary edema (fluid buildup in the lungs) is also a serious complication.

Severe disease may place the mother and fetus in danger and it may be necessary to deliver the baby early to prevent further complications. Recovery from HELLP syndrome may take several days after delivery. HELLP syndrome is a serious disease and can be life threatening for both mother and her baby.

What are the symptoms of HELLP syndrome?

The following are the most common symptoms of HELLP syndrome. However, each woman may exhibit experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • right-sided upper abdominal pain or pain around the stomach
  • nausea, vomiting
  • headache
  • increased blood pressure
  • protein in the urine
  • edema (swelling)

The symptoms of HELLP syndrome may resemble other medical conditions, including pregnancy-induced hypertension. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

How is HELLP syndrome diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for HELLP syndrome may include:

  • blood pressure measurement
  • red blood cell count
  • bilirubin level – a substance produced by the breakdown of red blood cells.
  • liver function tests
  • platelet count – cells found in the blood that are needed to help the blood clot to control bleeding.
  • urine tests for protein

Treatment for HELLP syndrome:

Specific treatment for HELLP syndrome will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your pregnancy, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the disease
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • bedrest (either at home or in the hospital may be recommended)
  • hospitalization (as specialized personnel and equipment may be necessary)
  • blood transfusions (for severe anemia and low platelets)
  • magnesium sulfate (to prevent seizures)
  • antihypertensive medications (to reduce blood pressure)
  • fetal monitoring (to check the health of the fetus) may include:
    • fetal movement counting – keeping track of fetal kicks and movements. A change in the number or frequency may mean the fetus is under stress.
    • nonstress testing – a test that measures the fetal heart rate in response to the fetus’ movements.
    • biophysical profile – a test that combines nonstress test with ultrasound to observe the fetus.
    • Doppler flow studies – a type of ultrasound that uses sound waves to measure the flow of blood through a blood vessel.
  • laboratory testing of liver, urine, and blood (for changes that may signal worsening of HELLP syndrome)
  • medications, called corticosteroids, that may help mature the lungs of the fetus (lung immaturity is a major problem of premature babies)
  • delivery (if HELLP syndrome worsens and endangers the well-being of the mother or fetus, then an early delivery may be necessary)

Prevention of HELLP syndrome:

Early identification of women at risk for HELLP syndrome may help prevent some complications of the disease. Education about the warning signs is also important because early recognition may help women receive treatment and prevent worsening of the disease.