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Preeclampsia is one of the leading causes of maternal deaths in the U.S. 

The life-threatening hypertensive disorder affecting 300,000 pregnant women in the U.S. annually, often yielding serious complications for mother and baby as well as long-term effects. 

For Black women the situation is dire. Preeclampsia is 60% more common in Black women than in those of other races and they are three times more likely to die from the disorder.

To spread the word this summer about the disorder impacting pregnant mothers, especially those of color, the Preeclampsia Foundation is hitting the road. 

Foundation President Eleni Z. Tsigas said she’s devoting her summer to connect with communities and raise awareness.  

“This is my opportunity to get out and listen and learn from families affected by preeclampsia, to meet them where they are and understand their experiences,” said Tsigas, a two-time preeclampsia survivor who has held her current position with the national non-profit patient advocacy organization since 2009. 

“There is nothing like sitting down with someone, looking them in the eye, and connecting with them on a personal level. This RV trip is a more grassroots way for me to do that. It allows for shared experiences as well as new opportunities and exploration,” she said. 

The 17-state Reconnect Tour: Putting Preeclampsia on the Map, kicked off on June 2. Tsigas will make stops in 22 cities over the course of two months to meet preeclampsia survivors, donors, researchers, clinicians and supporters. The trek covers thousands of miles with planned activities in cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Boston and Indianapolis. 

Other stops include Madison, Wisconsin; New Haven, Connecticut; Syracuse, New York; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Chapel Hill, North Carolina; and Nashville, Tennessee. 

Foundation staff, friends and family members will accompany Tsigas in an RV on various legs of the tour. Tsigas also plans to raise awareness of the Preeclampsia Registry, an online database hosted by the foundation that uses individual pregnancy experiences and medical information in research studies to discover the causes — and possible cures — of preeclampsia and related hypertensive disorders. 

The registry has more than 8,000 members. Tsigas said the registry is currently seeking more maternal experiences from Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities to ensure they are seen, heard and more proportionately represented in the research.

Tsigas noted that 60% of the maternal deaths caused by preeclampsia are preventable. 

“These are moms who were in the prime of their lives,” she said. “Behind every one of these numbers was a young, vibrant woman.”

The tour will include Tsigas visiting research collaborators in numerous institutions. 

“These are centers of preeclampsia excellence, and we want to applaud and showcase their innovative and superlative work,” she said.

Sarafina Wright –Washington Informer Staff Writer

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s...

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