LOUISVILLE, Ga. (WJBF) – A women’s clinic in Jefferson County, Georgia helps pregnant women and new moms track their blood pressure. And for Chantele Walker, it was the education she needed to act fast.
“By the time I made it to triage it was like 224/100,” she recalled.
Days after giving birth to her second son, Aiden in June, Walker developed preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication that causes high blood pressure. That quick vital check saved her life, and landed her in Augusta University Medical Center for nearly a week for treatment.
Walker said, “They started out with the magnesium. They started pushing different blood pressure medications to see what it would react to, what my body would react to.”
With a new lease on life, Walker wants to help other mothers avoid maternal mortality, which is high in the Peach State. So she’s sharing her health journey, which started at the Louisville Prenatal Center. There, she was able to tap into a new, AU web app called vidaRPM, for remote pregnancy and postpartum monitoring. Certified Nurse Midwife Linda Randolph said the comorbidity impacts 45 percent of women she works with at the clinic and African American women have a high risk. Location plays a role too.
Certified Nurse Midwife Linda Randolph helped Walker implement this health plan.
“Georgia has 159 counties. Over 80 of those have no obstetrical care, which is devastating. If a woman has to travel more than 20 miles, her risks of complications and poor outcomes triple.”
In Louisville, it’s twice that distance, so Randolph sets up shop once a week and meets with expecting women. Some of the preeclampsia symptoms they look out for include headache that won’t go away with rest and water, shortness of breath, pain under the ribs and swelling, a sign Walker saw that fateful day.
“I wasn’t feeling faint or any other symptoms or nausea or anything,” Walker said of the experience.
“We pilot tested it with 30 moms,” said. AU Research Scientist and Associate Professor Dr. Marlo Vernon. She created vidaRMP after her cousin died while pregnant. She said she wanted to arm other mothers with a BP machine, weight scale to track rapid weight gain from retaining water and the education needed to advocate for themselves in the doctor’s office and keep watch over preeclampsia.
“If a mom enters a blood pressure above normal thresholds, she gets follow up questions on those five preeclampsia symptoms,” Dr. Vernon said. “Whether or not she answers yes to any of those symptoms, she gets a follow up notice that her blood pressure is high and she needs to contact her provider.”
vidaRPM also tracks postpartum depression, which can last up to one year after birth. Dr. Vernon told NewsChannel 6 her goal is to have the web app active across Georgia and nationally. There are currently more than 100 women participating in the CSRA and Albany, Georgia.
To sign up for the program, click here.
Photojournalist: Gary Hipps