“I don’t know how I got so lucky”

Can you imagine waiting for the birth of your beautiful baby boy – only to be told his life and yours are in danger? 

For Nina Vankham that was her reality. After numerous miscarriages and the tragic loss of their baby girl a year before Nina thought she was through the worst.  She was 31 weeks pregnant with her son and only to be told that he wasn’t moving, and Nina needed an emergency caesarean to save both of their lives.  

“I remember just holding my breath. Our world stood still, and I just couldn’t believe it was happening again.”

– Nina Vankham. 


Nina had pre-eclampsia – a condition of pregnancy with frightening statistics: 

  • It’s estimated to claim the life of up to 70,000 mothers and 500,000 babies worldwide every year.
  • Those mothers and babies who survive are more likely to have cardiovascular issues in the future. 
  • It doubles the mother and baby’s likelihood of dying from cardiovascular disease.
  • Often the mother has no symptoms, so intervention can come too late.
  • There is little known about the causes.
  • The only cure is to get the baby out of the mother quickly.

But there is hope thanks to an exciting new discovery being undertaken by Prof Rasmussen and Dr Chia-chi Liu. 

Dr Chia-chi Liu had identified a particular molecular modification present in the placenta in pre-eclampsia, that was inhibiting nutrient transfer from mother to baby. Without these nutrients the fetus’s essential organs such as lungs, kidney and heart will not develop properly.  

In medical terms this was a very exciting discovery. 

The question now was: How to find a way to reverse this inhibition at a cellular level and to get the nutrients flowing again to the baby to ensure they could survive? 

And research Prof. Rasmussen and Dr. Liu had undertaken together over 20 years ago may provide this missing piece of the puzzle. 

Can you just imagine the impact that the success of this research could have on the many families impacted by pre-eclampsia? It could literally be lifesaving.  

Because Nina and her partner Peter are the lucky ones – they got to take their beautiful baby boy home in time for a family Christmas – yet many are not so lucky. As Nina puts it “I don’t know how I got so lucky”. 

But survival shouldn’t be about luck, which is why we are asking you to donate to heart research this Christmas. 

At Heart Research Australia we strive to see all families and loved ones have the blessing of a healthy heart and a secure future – and to achieve this we need your support. 

Wishing you and your loved ones a very happy Christmas.