NH Angel Ball gala Sept. 21 at Gaelic Park
From Mary O’Leary
NH Angel Fund
Every mom and dad, every doting grandparent, every person who has ever loved a child grieves with a parent who has lost a son or daughter. We can too readily imagine the heartbreak, and we instinctively want to help in whatever way we can.
Parents who have suffered such a loss know keenly how much help is needed. Mother McAuley High School graduate Bridget O’Brien and her husband Shane Martin have lost two infants to a disease known as Neonatal Hemochromatosis, or NH. They have recently established the NH Angel Fund in memory of Grace and Christopher. The non-profit organization’s mission is to increase awareness fund research to find a cure for NH.
Though not uncommon, NH is often misdiagnosed, in part because there is no prescreen available due to its non-genetic origin. NH occurs when the mother’s system forms an antibody to her baby’s liver while the baby is in utero. Pregnancies involving NH usually end in late-term miscarriage or still birth. Even those few babies that are born alive quickly succumb to NH because of misdiagnosis and resulting mismanagement of their care, becoming yet another NH Angel. Once a woman has a baby affected by NH, the likelihood of her having subsequent pregnancies involving NH increases 80 percent. There is an overwhelming need for increased awareness of NH and funding for related research.
We are fortunate to have the leading authority on NH here in Chicago — Dr. Peter Whitington, of the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital (formerly known as Children’s Memorial). Through his tireless efforts, Dr. Whitington has discovered a viable treatment option for women during pregnancy that can limit their babies’ exposure to the NH antibody and oftentimes prevent babies from being affected by NH altogether. In addition to his research, Dr. Whitington works to spread awareness and educate other medical professionals.