WALKER, Mich. (WOOD) — Women joined together on Saturday to share their stories of pain and hope after having complicated pregnancies caused by a condition called Preeclampsia.

The women and their families met at Millennium Park late Saturday morning to walk through the trails and bond over what they describe as terrifying moments while pregnant.

Women walking with their children at the Promise Walk for Preeclampsia at Millenium Park.

“It’s a very scary and sneaky disease,” Alison Bush said.

Bush is the mother of a 2-year-old son, Logan. He is a thriving toddler. Though midway through Bush’s pregnancy, she wasn’t sure if she’d be enjoying sunny days like today.

Bush went into her pregnancy knowing she was at risk for preeclampsia because of her age. She had already been dealing with high blood pressure.

It’s something her doctors were on top of throughout her term but during a routine OB/GYN appointment at 30 weeks, her doctor noticed her blood pressure was high and that she had protein in her urine.

Alison Bush pictured with her husband and son during the Promise Walk for Preeclampsia at Millenium Park.

Bush was sent for more testing and admitted to the hospital where it was recommended she be put on bed rest.

“It definitely was not at all what we had planned for the pregnancy or delivery. All those plans just went out of the window,” she said.

Bush was shocked at the response from doctors because, other than her blood pressure being high, she hadn’t experienced any of the common symptoms of preeclampsia like blurred vision, pain in the abdomen or headache.

When her son’s heart rate began to drop, she had to undergo an emergency C-section and her son was born at 31 weeks. He was 2.5 pounds and spent weeks in the hospital.

“The OB that delivered told me afterwards that if it had been just a few more hours we probably would have lost him and even me,” she said.

Bush feels she was one of the lucky ones who had doctors who took her health seriously. But according to Chief Executive Office of the Preeclampsia Foundation, Eleni Tsigas, it’s not the case for all women.

Mother pictured with her son at the walk for Preeclampsia awareness.

“Black women and Native American women are three to four times more likely to have this happen to them and to have worse outcomes. That is unacceptable,” Tsigas said.

Tsigas and her team are hoping to break the stigma and raise awareness about the condition by going on a tour through the country.

She and her team are visiting research centers, hospitals and meeting with women and their families to advance healthcare.

“We are starting to pick away what are the things we can be doing around that. Part of is making sure healthcare providers are doing the right thing and that they do not have implicit bias practices that’s driving care to be different for different women. That is not okay. All women should have the same good level of care,” she said.

Though Bush’s son had to stay in the hospital, she was able to leave two days after giving birth. However, she found herself back in the emergency room that same week. Her blood pressure had gone up to 180/110.

“I was in danger even after delivery,” she said.

Juliet Meyer, a young mother, had complications with her second child Scarlett. She didn’t know anything about the condition until she started gaining water weight from having kidney issues.

She was also admitted to the hospital. After spending five days at Spectrum Health, she went through an emergency C-section.

Soon after she gave birth, her daughter was sent to the NICU and Meyer found herself back on the operating table because she was having heart and kidney failure, among other complications.

Photo Courtesy Juliet Meyer: Meyer’s daughter, Scarlett, in the NICU at Spectrum Health in 2021.

“I actually had another occurrence that happened where I was just minutes away from passing away. That’s how severe this is,” she said. “I had 10 minutes to say goodbye to family and friends before they rushed me to a second and third emergency surgery where I then had to follow up with physical therapy and was in a wheelchair for five weeks.”

She and her baby girl are also thriving now. She helped host the Promise Walk for Preeclampsia and shared her personal story to bring light to something that almost took her life.

Carrie Hill found out about the walk just hours before it started. For her, the event was a way to connect with people just like her. She was diagnosed with HELLP syndrome, a severe case of preeclampsia.

“It’s been great to put a name and a face with somebody who has been through the same thing,” Carrie Hill said.

Reporter Gabrielle Phifer pictured with Preeclampsia Foundation CEO Eleni Tsigas.

Preeclampsia Foundation CEO says it’s experiences like that that are so important in carrying on the foundation’s mission.

“It’s too easy for something in pregnancy to feel transitory, meaning it’s something that happens in pregnancy. I’ll get over it and will move on but if everyone keeps moving on then no one is stopping to do anything about it,” Tsigas said.

She has two personal experiences with the condition, one where she lost her daughter during complications 20 years ago.

She would love to have more answers regarding a cure for this condition but in the meantime, she’s more focused on making sure women and healthcare providers work together on protecting mothers and their babies.

Jember Seebck had preeclampsia with all three of her children. She encourages other women to take control of their health.

“If you have a gut feeling and you think your doctor says, ‘I think you’re going to be okay. It happens to every woman,’ just go off of your gut feeling. Go to the hospital just to make sure you and your baby are fine.

To learn more about Preeclampsia, visit the Preeclampsia Foundation website.