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JoAnna Anderson cannot recall the name of her physician. Nor can she recall the neonatal nurses attending to her second child, who was born on Nov. 14, 2005, at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center. But JoAnna Anderson never will forget Cape Fear Valley Health Foundation. “It was definitely a blessing for me,” Anderson, 43, said of the foundation that provided nearly $40,000 for medical biopsies and her hospital stay as she struggled with the birth of her daughter. Today, her daughter Reagan is a vibrant 15-year-old with a gift for the arts and music, who is thinking of becoming a cardiovascular surgeon. JoAnna Anderson’s story is traumatic and painful. But her resolve in 2005 was buoyed by her faith. Led by that faith, her gift to the foundation last November was generous, with a hope to help other mothers and children along life’s way with health struggles of their own.  “My kidneys started failing shortly after I discovered that I was pregnant,” Anderson said in a testimonial correspondence to the Foundation. “I had lesions all over my body that we thought was just an allergic reaction to something. The doctor gave me prednisone, which did nothing. My body then started to swell and my blood pressure skyrocketed. My doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong, but they knew that something was majorly wrong with me.” And then came more unwelcome news. “At four months pregnant, my obstetrician told me that I would need to abort the pregnancy,” Anderson said, “or one of us or both of us wouldn’t make it.” Abortion was “simply not a moral option” for her, she said. “So I decided to fight for the life of my baby and took no consideration for my own life.” Her condition did not improve. “The swelling escalated to a point that I had gained 60 pounds in just water weight,” she said. “My skin had stretched to its limits and my legs were oozing with body liquids. I would go to bed with my legs elevated to reduce the swelling and wake up with my head swollen and my face was unrecognizable. I would waddle to the shower quickly to try to get cleaned before the swelling went back to my legs and I couldn’t bend them to get out of the shower.” Even though her condition made her greatly depressed, she continued to fight for her baby. “My mom would come to help me clean the house and grocery shop while my husband, at the time, focused on working to be able to afford all of the medical treatment that we needed,” said Anderson, who was a teacher at Max Abbott Middle School prior to her pregnancy. “Just before the pregnancy I had left my job, so I didn’t have health insurance and would have to wait until open enrollment to join my husband’s health insurance.” Medical bills were endless. Her health was in peril. Her resolve was steadfast. "I started seeing a specialist in high-risk pregnancies,” Anderson said. “He sent me to a nephrologist that said I would need to have a biopsy of my kidneys while pregnant. At that point, we were giving everything we had financially to afford the pregnancy care.” And then came an unforeseen blessing. “My nephrologist and my new obstetrician told me about Cape Fear Valley Health Foundation,” she said. “Thank God, Cape Fear Valley Health Foundation’s Friends of Children helped me get through this difficult time.” Six months into her pregnancy, Anderson said biopsies revealed she was suffering from Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis, a kidney disease, according to the National Kidney Foundation, that attacks and damages the glomeruli or filtering units inside the kidney, where blood is cleaned. Nephrologists, she said, diagnosed a treatment plan. “I was taking about 21 pills per day in an attempt to sustain me throughout the pregnancy,” Anderson said. “It helped, and I delivered a healthy baby prematurely. She weighed 4 pounds and stayed in the NICU for five days only because of her size. Reagan is now a healthy15-year-old, and I’m still here. Because of Cape Fear Valley Health Foundation, the doctors were able to properly diagnose and treat me.” Today, JoAnna Anderson resides in Charlotte and works as a real estate investor and Realtor. Madison Anderson, 22, her older daughter, is a senior at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and “budding entrepreneur.” Reagan Anderson is a junior at the Northwest School of Art, full of energy and can play a piano like Alicia Keys. “We love singing, dancing and doing karaoke together,” said JoAnna Anderson, who recently underwent a double mastectomy for Stage 3 breast cancer and adds that she is “cancer free.” She counts her blessings, and among them, Cape Fear Valley Health Foundation. “I never met any of the Foundation members,” JoAnna Anderson said about the Foundation, circa 1995, that has raised more than $25 million for philanthropic efforts benefitting Cape Fear Valley Health Foundation. “But I never forgot. I always had the intention of giving back. I hope my gift will be used by the foundation to help mothers and children. Without a doubt, God was with me. And I believe the Foundation saved both my life and the life of my child.”

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