The Promise Walk for Preeclampsia {Spreading Awareness & Support in NOLA}

I am a survivor

Twenty-seven years ago, my life almost ended before it had even begun. My lungs were underdeveloped and my liver wasn’t working; my tiny body was not yet ready to function on its own. I was born nine weeks early and weighed in at just three pounds. My mother had undiagnosed Preeclampsia, then called Toxemia, and had had an emergency Cesarean section in order to save both our lives. I spent nine weeks the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and six months on a heart monitor once home, but I made it home with my mother. We were lucky.

0When I became pregnant with my own daughter, I did what most expectant mothers do: I practically smothered myself in a sea of prenatal health books. I was shocked to learn that after nearly thirty years, Preeclampsia still accounts for 20% of all premature births. I learned that Preeclampsia is a disorder that affects 5% – 8% of all pregnancies and can be potentially fatal to mom and baby. An estimated 76,000 maternal and 500,000 infant deaths are attributed to Preeclampsia worldwide each year, and yet many people, like my mother, are unaware of this disorder until it affects their family.

Know the signs and symptoms

Having a family history of Preeclampsia meant I was at higher risk for developing it myself, so I educated myself on the signs and symptoms of the disorder, such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Protein in urine
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Swelling in hands and feet
  • Vision Changes
  • Headache that won’t go away
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Abdominal or chest pain

Again I was lucky. My daughter was born healthy and full-term at 41 weeks, but I couldn’t stop thinking about Preeclampsia and its survivors, like Wesley Wilkenson:

“My entire pregnancy was smooth with no issues, other than the normal morning sickness in the first trimester. When I was thirty-three weeks pregnant, we found out we were moving to a new city, due to my husband’s job. Within a few weeks, we had relocated and were settling into our new home. I started to notice that my feet were swelling, but I brushed it off simply as a result of being on my feet for days unpacking boxes. After a few days of steady swelling and a lingering headache, I decided to take a break from unpacking for the day and just relax. My headache got worse throughout the day and I started to see spots all around the room. My husband and I decided that my body was just overly tired from the move and that I would feel better with a good nights sleep. Later that night, I suddenly became nauseous and completely lost my appetite. We started to get a little worried, so decided to go get my blood pressure checked at Walgreens for peace of mind. Sure enough, my blood pressure was incredibly high and within a few hours I was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with Preeclampsia. After a long labor with persisting Preeclampsia symptoms, my baby girl was born and immediately rushed to the NICU, where she stayed for ten days.”

The Preeclampsia Foundation in New Orleans

01I decided to volunteer for the Preeclampsia Foundation and help spread awareness to the New Orleans area after hearing stories from local moms like Wesley. This spring a group of volunteers are looking to use the beautiful weather to shine some light on this important topic. May 3, 2015 marks the first ever NOLA Promise Walk for Preeclampsia at Audubon Park.

“The more I learn about Preeclampsia, the more connected I feel to the cause and to others that have been affected. From my experience with Preeclampsia, I have made it my personal and communal goal to help spread awareness and knowledge of the condition, in the hopes of saving the lives of other mothers and their babies,” said Wilkinson.

The walk is open to anyone looking to have a good time while spreading awareness of Preeclampsia and honoring those it has affected.

2015 NOLA Promise Walk for Preeclampsia

PF-TPW-logo-and-tag-1000pxDate: Sunday, May 3, 2015
Location: Audubon Park
6500 Magazine Street
New Orleans, Louisiana 70118

Time: 8:30 am  Registration
10:00 am  Promise Walk

Online Registration: $20.00 per adult, $10.00 per child
Walk up Registration: $25.00 per adult, $10.00 per child

For information and questions about donations, sponsorships or volunteer opportunities for the Promise Walk, please contact Ashley Henderson, [email protected] or Wesley Wilkinson, [email protected].

About Ashley Henderson

AshleyMarieHendersonAshley Marie Henderson is a Chicago native who relocated to New Orleans while obtaining her Master’s degree from Tulane University School of Social Work. Now a permanent resident of the Ninth Ward, she works as a certified prenatal health coach and doula.


  1. I was only 20 years old when I found out that I was pregnant with my little girl. The first 4 months I didn’t even know that I was pregnant. I had no symptoms and I felt fine, and I even went for my annual checkup at the doctors during this time. They didn’t suspect anything but still drew blood anyways. My hormone level was really low. It wasn’t until one day I felt her kick that I knew I was pregnant. Shortly after the doctor confirming I was pregnant, I began to notice my hands n feet were swelling like crazy. I attributed it to the pregnancy. Then one day I woke up with my face so swollen I didn’t even recognize myself and I went to the doctor. I also had suffered from migraines before. I was diagnosed with preeclampsia and put on bed rest. My preeclampsia got worse as i furthered along but I was determined to have a healthy baby girl. My water broke at 36 1/2 weeks and I delivered a healthy baby girl via c section(blood pressure was at 275/190)! It was scary but today she is 3 years old and happy healthy baby girl!!! I still suffer from some of the side effects but I would definitely rather it be me than her! We only stayed in the hospital for 3 days!

  2. I had severe preeclampsia for my first pregnancy, and a daughter who spent over 10 weeks in the NICU after delivery at 29 weeks. I knew nothing about this before it happened to me, and I think this walk is a great idea to spread awareness!

  3. When I was pregnant for my first baby in the early 90’s I was diagnosed with Toxemia, I spent the last 30 days of my pregnancy in bed. My son was taken by emergency cesarean due to he was struggling to breath. He spent several days after he was born in the hospital. I never heard of Preeclampsia/Toxemia until I developed it while pregnant. I am glad to hear about this Walk and that its helping spread awareness.


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