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More about Jill's Hospitalization and Rehabilitation

Nearly two years ago Jeff and I were eagerly awaiting the birth of our first child. The baby’s room wasn’t ready, we didn’t have a car seat, and I was scared out of my mind to experience childbirth; but there was still time for sorting all of that out. My pregnancy had been going so well and the only dilemma we were facing was which New York City borough would be the namesake of our first child. My efforts calling Jeff “Bronx” throughout the summer to try and convince him of that name’s merits were appearing to fail; but there was still time . . . and 4 other borough names to consider!

Little did we know that we had less time than we thought.

On October 29, 2004, I went to my doctor because two 24-hour urine tests had come back with elevated levels of protein. That Friday (only 30 weeks into my pregnancy) my doctor checked my blood pressure and it was uncharacteristically high. I earned, as she called it, “a vacation in the hospital.” I remember checking in and trying to get some work done typing away on my laptop – talking with one of the nurses about how I could get an absentee ballot for the Presidential election this late in the game. The next couple of days are lost to me, though. My next memories are of lying in a hospital bed, arms restrained, tubes going down my throat and into my chest, with nurses telling me I needed to get better because I had a baby at home to take care of. I had no idea what they were talking about!

That week of lost time for me was a roller coaster for my family. By Monday morning, there was no solution to my abdominal pain, vomiting, and blurred vision but to do an emergency c-section and there was no time to wait for my husband. Our daughter was born without him there and without a mom aware of what was going on. Family and friends from Oklahoma, California, Kansas, and Indiana began their joyous trek to Chicago to see the baby; but enroute, they got the news that I was in ICU and my condition was critical. In fact, later I would be told by my neurologist that I was “the sickest person to leave this hospital alive.”

Although I had been told that delivering my baby would “cure” my escalating blood pressure, such was not the case. After delivery, I lost my vision as others watched the numbers on the blood pressure monitor steadily rise. I was suffering from a severe case of preeclampsia (also known as toxemia) and HELLP Syndrome (stands for Hemolysis, Elevated Liver enzymes, and Low Platelets) which resulted in liver and kidney failure, a brief coma, and a stroke that left me immobile, on a feeding tube, and feeling pitiful. I avoided the liver transplant that my doctors felt was in my future, but was on dialysis for several weeks. After many ups and downs and a slow recovery (during which I was loopy enough at times to think I could fly out of my bed, wouldn’t sleep at night for fear I would die, and demanded the t.v. be on without sound all the time), I was “well” enough to go to a rehab hospital where I was eventually taken off of my feeding tube and ultimately learned to walk, eat, and dress myself again. After a total of 98 days of hospitalization and 3 months of daily outpatient rehab, I was “released” only to still struggle with holding, feeding, and carrying my beautiful baby. 

But my daughter, Brooklyn (that was the borough that won out, although it was touch-and-go with Manhattan/”Hattie” for awhile), and I were among the lucky ones.  We survived!

Every year, more than 6 million women experience pregnancies complicated by preeclampsia, and about 76,000 of these women die.  The number of babies who don’t survive this disorder is many times higher.  Preeclampsia is one of the oldest disorders on record, yet still no cure exists. 

After all those weeks of full-time bed-rest, I had to relearn the simplest things, such as walking and standing.  There was a joke in my family about who would gain control of their bodily functions first – me or Brooklyn! My body had lost every bit of muscle tone, so I was literally rebuilding from scratch.  Many of you know this story and humbled Jeff and I with your kindness, generosity, and prayers.

So why am I telling you all this again? 

Good question and here’s the answer. . . because I need your help once again.  On November 5, 2006, I will participate in the New York City Marathon and am seeking sponsorships of my effort to benefit the Preeclampsia Foundation. The Preeclampsia Foundation, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization launched in 2000, is dedicated to raising awareness, funding research, and providing support to those impacted by preeclampsia, HELLP Syndrome, and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. Visit their impressive website at to learn more about the Foundation, the disease, and courageous survivors.

In the months since my illness and recovery, I have learned a lot about what is not described in What to Expect When You are Expecting and would like to help other families avoid a birth experience like I had – or even worse. Mothers, babies, sisters, and daughters are lost every year to preeclampsia at the one time that should be one of the most joyous moments of their lives. I will be running on November 5th in the hope that more women will be educated on the signs of this disease and how to be aggressive in their own treatment; that recent research on the disease will provide guidance on how to avoid, predict, and treat this disease; and that victims will find support from those of us who precede them.

You can join me on my path to the finish line in a number of ways:

  • As a “Borough Baby” Contributor with a donation of $5/mile ($131 total).
  • As an “I’ll Pay to NOT Run a Marathon” Contributor with a donation of $10/mile ($262 total).
  • As a “This Money is Burning a Hole in My Pocket” Contributor with a donation of your choice.
  • As an “It’s the Thought that Counts, Right” Contributor with a donation of your choice.

All monetary contributions are tax-deductible and should be made payable to the Preeclampsia Foundation.  I will collect all checks and forward them to the Foundation at the end of each month. Please, bombard my mailbox with your responses!  To make a contribution with a credit card, go to and click on ‘Honor Donations.’ Please indicate that your donation is a Tribute Gift in honor of Jill Siegel and send a tribute card to me at 3217 W. Leland #1W, Chicago, IL 60625.

I would also appreciate it if you would encourage friends to participate in this fundraising effort. Thus, I’ve included several brochures, response forms, and self-addressed envelopes, so you can pass this mailing along to others. 

Closing thought (this is the big sales pitch part) . . . if you saw a person in distress who needed help in order to live and there was no risk to you, would you help?  My guess is that you would.  And that is what I am asking for today—some risk-free help.  Please give money if you are able to do so because I promise you, it is an act of kindness that could save someone’s life.  And take it from someone who knows firsthand, that person – and their family – will  be eternally grateful. 

With love, gratitude, and warm regards,

Jill (Owens) Siegel


P.S.  It doesn’t take a big fancy banquet to raise loads of money for a good cause.  It just takes a strong word-of-mouth network.  Please put yours to work and pass along this mailing to others.  Thanks in advance for your help.  I’ll be thinking of you when I cross that finish line – on my way to get a great piece of New York cheesecake.