Preeclampsia Survivor shares ordeal with miracle baby

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The hallmark of the disease is high blood pressure, and it affects about 8% pregnancies in Uganda.
Doreen Akunu survived preeclampsia but the thought of it still scares her 17 years later.

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Having a child can be the happiest time of a person's life, but not for an expectant mother who develops a life threatening condition medically known as preeclampsia.

This was part of the testimony by  Doreen Ruth Akunu, a mother who nearly lost her life and baby to this condition.

Akunu, now an anti-preeclampsia campaigner spoke out on Friday as part of the global awareness day against preeclampsia.

///Cue in: “I conceived around …..   

  Cue out: ……should lie down”. //     

According to Akunu, not knowing the signs of preeclampsia can be deadly. Pregnant for the first time, everything proceeded smoothly in the first months of pregnancy. 

Then she noticed her ankles and feet had swollen, she had constant headache and her whole body felt sluggish. Very soon, a person who weighed 49 abruptly jumped to 89Kgs, the hypertensive drugs that she had been initiated on seemed not to be working until she was referred to Mulago National Referral Hospital in Kampala.

Preeclampsia has become common in Uganda, over taking bleeding which was previously the most common cause of maternal mortality. Of the about 6000 maternal deaths happening in Uganda, about 550 are due to the complication, according to experts. 

In some facilities such as Kawempe National Referral Hospital that exclusively handles women related issues, the disease accounts for 20% of the death. 

But, despite being a health worker, Akunu didn’t make much sense of the abrupt swelling of the legs, severe headaches, blurred vision and being restless until a doctor at the then Lira District hospital that has since been elevated to a regional referral diagnosed her with the condition.   


In a move that seems the norm  with management of the complication that many health workers cannot diagnose it and many others cannot administer its most common treatment Magnesium Sulphate, Akunu couldn’t not be helped at the national referral either. The doctors she said asked her to continue with the medications given at the facility up country. 

Desperate for solutions, she looked for a private facility where they made it clear that they could only save her. 

She speaks of the pain of carrying a baby that wasn’t going to see light of day as doctors at Nsambya hospital said they were to conduct a caesarean section delivery to save her.  

  ///Cue in: “I went to ….   

  Cue out: …. Remove the placenta”. // 

But, only weighing 800grams, without a fully developed genitalia, no finger nails and no hair, the baby cried at birth and she remembers the doctor saying, ‘this is God’s mercy. 

This baby will be called Mercy. Akunu says she watched her baby grow all her body parts in the Intensive Care Unit amidst mocking by many who advised that she gives up as the baby had no chance of survival.     

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Cue out: ….. I started convulsing”. //   

However, to date, as a survivor, Akunu still fears the preeclampsia experience, 17 years later and yet Mercy has grown into a healthy teenager awaiting to sit her Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) examinations at Trinity College Nabbingo. 

However, while Mercy survived, Prof. Annettee Nakimuli a senior lecturer at Makerere University who has done a lot of research on preeclampsia says many of such children don’t survive as it affects the liver and the brain. 5000 babies die annually as a result of their mothers developing preeclampsia globally. 

Nakimuli says the disorder that has to do with improper growth of the placenta affects 5 to 8% of pregnancies and it’s most common among women of African origin.   

///Cue in: “This disorder affects …..     

Cue out: ….. having developed preeclampsia”. //       .

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