Sarah Zellner

@sarahzellner | contributor
To raise awareness for prematurity.
Sarah Zellner

The Long-Term Health Impact of Preeclampsia During Pregnancy

May is Preeclampsia Awareness Month. Preeclampsia is the number one pregnancy disorder facing pregnant people today, and it doesn’t necessarily end when you give birth. Preeclampsia, eclampsia, and HELLP syndrome are all considered hypertensive disorders in pregnancy. Most people think that once the baby is out, everything will be fine. They don’t realize there are quite serious potential long-term side effects of having had preeclampsia. In 2007 I gave birth to my first child. He was born prematurely due to early-onset severe preeclampsia. I also went on to develop eclampsia. I came far too close to death giving birth to my son, and it nearly took his life too. Fast forward to 2010, I gave birth to my second child. He was also premature due to early-onset severe preeclampsia. Lastly, in 2011 I gave birth to my twins. This was now my third time developing early-onset severe preeclampsia and I also developed HELLP syndrome. I never had high blood pressure prior to having preeclampsia and it did not go away after giving birth. I continued taking my blood pressure medication as prescribed and my doctor assured me that it just happens sometimes. Sometimes BP goes back to normal, but that doesn’t always happen. Nobody seemed worried, so I wasn’t worried. That is until about five years out. I woke up one day and I just couldn’t move. I could barely breathe and when I did stand up I had to sit within about two minutes. I felt awful. This progressed for a few hours, so I went to the ER. The following day I was diagnosed with atrial tachycardia and a flutter. They blamed my consistent high blood pressure for these heart issues. Another five years went by and I had a stroke. At this time I was seeing neurology and cardiology specialists. After a long series of various tests, it all came back to the common denominator of preeclampsia. Ten years later preeclampsia still had a hold on my life; how is that possible? Well, according to The Preeclampsia Foundation, “Women who have had preeclampsia have three to four times the risk of high blood pressure and double the risk for heart disease and stroke.” Research also shows that those who give birth prematurely, have an SGA baby, and those who have had it more than once have higher risk factors. This does not mean that every person with preeclampsia is going to end up like me, or even remotely close to what happened to me. This is to make you aware so you can discuss options now with your doctor on maintaining a healthy heart lifestyle. I never thought any of this would happen to me. I had no idea what preeclampsia even was prior to getting it, and unfortunately, there is no way to know who will develop it. There are certain characteristics that put you at higher risk, but I had none of them. Some people may have all of them and not get it. It’s terrifying how fast it can come on. I encourage all pregnant individuals to do a little research on it. Know the symptoms. This goes for those who have had it as well. Please look into these potential side effects and know the symptoms. I am not the same person I once was. I hope by relaying this message I can help prevent possible heart disease and/or stroke in other survivors of preeclampsia.

Sarah Zellner

To the Mama Spending This Mother's Day With Her Baby in the NICU

To the mother sitting bedside in the NICU, I know this is not how you envisioned Mother’s Day. I know right now it hurts. There is no breakfast in bed, morning snuggles, or cuddling your little miracle all day while you gaze into their eyes wondering how you ever got so lucky. Instead, you woke up today and got ready to go visit your medically fragile child who is currently living in a neonatal intensive care unit. I am so sorry for this. The enormous emotional force surrounding Mother’s Day is not something you can just pretend isn’t there, and to not recognize the pain you are feeling would be a complete disservice to yourself. That being said, I want to assure you, motherhood is so much more than one special day a year. Embracing the unexpected, like you are doing right now, is preparing you for the days ahead. Motherhood is a neverending cycle of emotions. These days in the NICU are molding you into a new version of yourself, the very best version of yourself. You will walk out of this a different person. In my experience, you will have a new outlook and new appreciation for the smallest moments in life, those that most take for granted. You will look back on this first Mother’s Day and rejoice in how far your child has come. You will think back on how you had no idea how you were going to make it through this, but you did. You will have so much pride in your journey that the pain you are feeling right now, will be minuscule in comparison to the joy. So today, while you sit next to the incubator shedding a few tears and grieving the pregnancy you thought you would have, make sure to reflect on the fact that you are still a mother and motherhood looks different for everyone. Know that you are strong, you are amazing, and you have everything inside of you already to get through this. Happy Mother’s Day, mama.

Community Voices
Community Voices
Community Voices
Community Voices
Community Voices
Community Voices
Community Voices
Denise Reich

Not Only Elderly and Immunocompromised Will Be Affected by COVID-19

By now, most of us know the worldwide threat of COVID-19, a new strain in the coronavirus family. Information about the virus, new cases and new testing and containment protocols are being released to the public every single day, piling in from sources ranging from the World Health Organization (WHO) to local news channels. While it’s incredible that we have immediate access to COVID-19 updates, there’s one big problem with the way the media has been covering the outbreak. We have reporters, social media influencers and other public figures trying to reassure us that we’re probably going to be fine — well, most of us anyway. All of us except the elderly and immunocompromised. “Don’t worry,” they say. “Wash your hands and carry on,” they advise. “You’re young, it’s not like you’ll die or anything! It’s just the elderly and people with compromised immune systems that will be affected!” As if people in those groups don’t matter. People like me. I have primary immunodeficiency. Hi. I won’t lie, COVID-19 concerns me, just as it concerns my neighbors and friends who have stronger immune systems. Luckily, the infection control procedures recommended to the general public — things like thorough and frequent hand washing, covering one’s mouth when sneezing and cleaning surfaces that are frequently touched — are standard operating procedure for a lot of people like me. I didn’t need to raid my local store for hand sanitizer and bleach wipes because I already have a cupboard full of that stuff. I’m doing my best to remain vigilant, keep my doctors’ appointments and avoid crowds. As of March 4, the Immune Deficiency Foundation’s stance on COVID-19 has been to provide factual information and encourage vigilance without inciting panic. Many other advocacy organizations for patients with respiratory or immune system conditions, such as the British Heart Trust and the American Lung Association have issued similar advice. The WHO and CDC are also quick to give advice and guidance on COVID-19 issues and acknowledge that some populations may be at greater risk without diminishing the fact that COVID-19 is not just an issue for those groups. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like a lot of news outlets are following this sound practice. They’re going on about how only “old folks’ homes” and “sick people” will be at risk. When did it become acceptable to comfort the public by reassuring them that “Hey, you’re not the one who might die”? Or to assume that it will all be cool because only “those people over there” will have issues? Aside from the fact that it’s actually not true — being healthy doesn’t grant anyone guaranteed immunity from potential complications — have they considered, even for a second, that those “old folks” and “sick people” are listening, reading or watching too, and don’t deserve to have their lives considered afterthoughts? Instead of shrugging off more medically vulnerable populations, has it ever dawned on any of these pundits to offer some advice to help? You know, like telling people with robust immune systems to be especially careful because they could still pass COVID-19 to an immunocompromised person? Or insisting that public facilities be proactive about ensuring their restrooms are cleaned often and always stocked with soap and working faucets? How about advocating for more sick day coverage and fewer repercussions for workers who need to take time off to avoid spreading COVID-19 or other illnesses? Or reminding people to check on homebound neighbors and relatives? You can reassure the public about COVID-19 without throwing some of the public under the bus. Really, you can. Please make the effort. Concerned about coronavirus? Stay safe using the tips from these articles: Which Face Masks Prevent Against Coronavirus? How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer 8 Soaps You Can Use to Help Prevent the Spread of Illness Coronavirus and Chronic Illness: What You Need to Know 10 Face Masks People With Chronic Illness Recommend