“I Cannot Let Someone Else Go Through This”

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MELBOURNE, Fla. — In 2012, when Aran Hissam was pregnant with her third child — eager to have a baby girl complete her family — she received a devastating diagnosis.

  • Woman starts foundation, 5K to raise funds for fetal medical research
  • She lost her daughter, Brianna, who lived just 15 short hours
  • Brianna Marie Foundation 5K raised $50K, had 700 runners this year

Her baby had fetal hydrops, or fluid filling her lungs and stomach.

She recalls the doctor walking into the room and advising her that she should terminate the pregnancy, because there was “no hope” for the child.

“My husband and I didn’t feel that it was our religious belief … We chose a different journey,” she said. “Every day you’re wondering, ‘Is she still alive? Is she going to make it another day?’ It’s a feeling that’s awful.”

Her search for help led to a doctor in Miami, who performed three fetal surgeries on Hissam, slowing strengthening the baby’s lungs.

“Those doctors in my opinion are miracle workers,” Hissam said. “They’re operating on organs the size of a pea. And they’re saving a baby, and doing it in utero.”

But they couldn’t save Brianna. Her lungs still weak, the baby was placed on a ventilator. She died after 15 hours.

Hissam described the heartbreaking experience as “out of body,” holding onto the child long after she passed. She agonized over whether the outcome would have been different had she found help earlier.

The next day, Hissam turned sorrow into action, launching the Brianna Marie Foundation.

“I looked at my fetal surgeon and said, ‘I cannot let someone else go through this,'” she said. “For a parent to go through a death, it’s something you can’t put into words. But, I can tell parents I’ve experienced it and can tell them how you’ll take that next breath, that next step.

“I wanted to make sure that every parent knew there are options, there are solutions. And sometimes, every baby isn’t saved. But if you don’t try, you’ll never know,” Hissam said.

Hissam began running after her daughter’s death. That escape inspired a yearly 5K run in the infant’s honor with the goal of raising funds for research into fetal issues.

The event takes place in Melbourne each March, right around the time of Brianna’s birthday, but Hissam and others begin gathering sponsors and donations in the fall. This year, they raised $50,000 to fund research into fetal therapies, with over 700 runners participating.

“These studies are now producing papers that have Brianna’s name printed in it. Her impact in her 15 hours she shared with us is changing lives,” Hissam said. “I have seen babies come to my event given a zero percent chance of survival. And they’re running in the kids race now.”

Encouraged by the support she’s received — and in turn, given to others — Hissam says Brianna’s legacy lives on.

“I want parents to know there is hope. I want them to know there are options,” she said.

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