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BENEFITING: Preeclampsia Foundation


EVENT: Spartan Race 2014

EVENT DATE: Jun 27, 2015

Yachica Gonzalez


Cyrena Denniston wrote -

This fundraiser will go to support The Preeclampsia Foundation (, which funds medical research pertaining to the pathophysiology, diagnosis, and treatment of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy.  On Saturday, June 27th, my team of great men and women will undertake this physically challenging race, and with your help bring more awareness to people everywhere of the awful disease, preeclampsia.  Please read my family's story and share with everyone!!


My name is Cyrena Denniston and in 2012, my husband, Dave and I went through a very traumatic experience bringing our 2nd daughter, Evangeline into the world. I became very sick early on in my pregnancy with pre-eclampsia/toxemia. I had the illness with our 1st daughter, Gabrielle, but she had been born 7 years earlier in 2005, so we weren’t highly concerned with the possibility of it happening again. The medical field has yet to determine the reason this happens to certain women and not others. This sickness causes fatigue, water retention, headaches, and high blood pressure. In its most severe state it will cause extreme high blood pressure, protein in the urine, blurred vision, intense headaches, seizures, strokes, major organ failure, and many other complications, which will eventually cause the body to shut down, resulting in the death of mother and/or child. The only way to stop the progression of the disease is to deliver the baby.

Pre-eclampsia/toxemia affects only 2-6% of women, and is not tied to any particular culture or race. It usually shows up anytime after the 20-week mark of pregnancy. I was diagnosed at week 19 and it progressed very rapidly. I was hospitalized for a week to get my blood pressure down and headaches under control at the beginning of May in 2012. After my hospital stay, I was put on strict bed rest, thinking we could keep Evangeline in until at least week 30.

On Friday, May 11th, 2012, I went to my doctor’s office to check my blood pressure and protein levels in my urine, with the hopes that both had gone down. It was quite opposite and I was admitted to the hospital that day. My doctors said I would probably remain in the hospital and be closely monitored until Evangeline’s due date, which would have September 6th, 2012.

After about an hour of being in the 1st hospital, Fairview Edina, my doctors came in after having a meeting with their colleagues and decided to transport me by ambulance down to University of Minnesota Medical Center, just in case Evangeline might have to be delivered. For Dave and I, that was the furthest from our minds, being that I was just 23 weeks along. Of course, we listened to the wisdom of our doctors and went with their judgment to go. Our doctors said, just in case Evangeline had to come out, the medical staff and NICU at UMMC would be the best place for us to be. I was then given steroid shots to help Evangeline’s lung development, and transported by ambulance to UMMC.

Overnight, I was closely monitored by the medical staff and then early Saturday morning, May 12th, 2012 (Dave’s birthday), a neonatology specialist came in and did an ultrasound to see how Evangeline was doing. The doctor said Evangeline was experiencing stress and that she may have to come within 48 hours, but that they would check back, as the stress may have been caused by us being moved from one hospital to the next, and my body just needing more rest. To be proactive, they did give me another steroid shot to help with Evangeline’s lung development. What a way to spend my husband’s birthday!

On Sunday morning, May 13th, which happened to be Mother’s Day, they ran the same ultrasound and made it very clear that Evangeline had to come that day. So, the emergency c-section was scheduled that afternoon. During the ultrasound, she was estimated to be weighing around 1 pound, and they shared with Dave (not me-which was probably for the best at that time) that her chances of survival were less than 50% and if she did survive, there would be high chances of development disabilities, etc. Dave and I prayed as we had been doing for our whole pregnancy, believing for the best.

At 2:59pm, Mother’s Day, May 13th, 2012, Evangeline Marie Denniston, entered this world, weighing 12.4 ounces. Dave said she actually tried to give a little cry when they took her from my body, even without being able to breathe on her own. I’ve seen the video and she sure did! The medical staff were amazing and quickly got her breathing with the help of a ventilator. Over the next 4 1/2 months, the NICU medical staff at UMMC were so loving, supportive, and encouraging, as we watched our little girl grow, believing that she would not have any complications, and we would eventually bring her home, so that we could be a family of 4, together.

The next step for the other medical staff was to figure out how to get my body out of thinking I was still pregnant. The preeclampsia persisted and I did have what was not clearly diagnosed as a minor seizure attack. My blood pressure remained high and out of control for over a week, as the physicians used the strongest meds to bring it down. The danger with that again would be seizures, stroke, and possibly death. Finally, by May 23rd, 2012, I was discharged from the hospital but sent home on 3 different blood pressure meds.

The whole ordeal was such an emotional roller coaster, and for me the next traumatic experience was being discharged from the hospital, and not taking my baby home. I cried so much, but knew Evangeline was in the best hands she could possibly be in. The entire staff, from the neonatologists to the nurses were so thorough in explaining all the treatments Evangeline was and/or would be receiving as well as being realistic with us through each stage of Evangeline’s development as to what possible things could go wrong or some challenges Evangeline might face in the future.

Dave and I lived at UMMC for next 4 1/2 months, and Gabrielle spent a lot of time with her sister too. It was amazing to me even at the young age of 6 1/2, how sensitive she was to Evangeline’s situation, and how much love she had for her sister she couldn’t even hold. Through God’s miraculous grace, so many prayers, love and support, including the amazing staff at UMMC, we left UMMC as a WHOLE family on September 25th, 2012. I’m positively sure the time was right around if not exactly 2:59pm, the same time she had entered the world 4 1/2 months earlier.

Here we are now, about 2 1/2 years later, with Evangeline’s 3rd birthday right around the corner, and she is such a healthy strong little girl. She hasn’t had any complications or hospitalizations, and if you were to see her now, you wouldn’t be able to tell at the beginning of her life, she was 12.4 ounces. Due to the complications I encountered with preeclampsia the 2nd time around, Dave and I were strictly advised to not have any more children. They said the chances of the baby and I making it to week 10 of pregnancy were less than 25%. But, our family is complete, and Dave and I are so blessed to have our two beautiful girls!!

My hope with this fundraiser is for people everywhere to become more aware of the awful disease preeclampsia and want to financially support those in the medical field working toward treatments and hopefully one day, find a cure.


Fundraiser Title

Cyrena Denniston

Amount Raised



9% Raised of $5,000 Goal

Fundraiser Title

Yachica Gonzalez

Amount Raised


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