PAPILLION, Neb. (KMTV) — Preeclampsia can be serious. The pregnancy complication leads to high blood pressure, which can put the lives of expecting mothers and their babies at risk. For some, preeclampsia develops gradually. For Papillion mom Shannon Hilaire, it came on suddenly.
At eight months pregnant, on Easter weekend 2019, Shannon felt very sick.
"I just remember feeling horrible. This headache that I couldn't get a break from, and nausea, and I had trouble seeing," she remembers.
This was her first pregnancy, and she'd heard stories from other women, so she "explained away" her symptoms.
However, Shannon's mom — an obstetric nurse of 25 years who now teaches other nurses — was concerned these symptoms could be related to high blood pressure.
She was right. Using an at-home monitor, Shannon learned her blood pressure was very high, and it continued to climb once she arrived at the hospital.
"I didn't realize how serious it was until I got into my gown and all of these people started swarming me at once," she said.
Diagnosed with sudden onset severe preeclampsia, doctors worked feverishly to save Shannon's life and the life of her baby.
When her daughter was born, she was blue and quiet.
"They tried to resuscitate her. I saw them bagging her, still no crying. I heard them talking about next steps..., 'What are we gonna do next?' Still, no crying," Shannon recalled.
The life-saving measures did work. Shannon's daughter was discharged first. Days later, Shannon was well enough to go home, as well.
Shannon has worked for the American Heart Association for five years and says she should have taken her own advice sooner.
"That was what was frustrating for me. I know better. We tell women all the time — don't delay, listen to your body, you know yourself better than anybody else," she said.
According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure during pregnancy is becoming more common in the United States, complicating 80,000 pregnancies in 2018 — twice as many as 2007. Preeclampsia increases a woman's chances of dying from cardiovascular disease later in life by 75%. And, just like high blood pressure during pregnancy is on the rise, so too, are pregnancy-related deaths, which rose by 140% from 1987 to 2015.
Treasuring life, Shannon and her husband Jimmy, celebrate each day. That spirit is evident in their daughter's name.
"My husband was on board with it. Her name will be Holiday. She's going to be so much fun and she has been," she said.
KMTV is proud to again sponsor the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women Experience on October 25. Learn more about your risk factors for heart attack and stroke on the Go Red for Women website.