Brief life grants help future babies, families


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Suntree mom Aran Hissam, left, and fetal surgeon Dr. Ruben Quintero of Miami shared awareness of fetal surgery advancements at the March 11 Brianna Marie Foundation 5K Run/Walk, from which $50,000 will be awarded for fetal surgery research this fall.

Photo by Mike Gaffey

The Suntree-based Brianna Marie Foundation announced April 25 a grant in the amount of $50,000 will go toward fetal surgery research, to be awarded this fall.

Created by Suntree residents Aran and Patrick Hissam in memory of their infant daughter Brianna Marie — who died in 2012 just 15 hours after her March 12 birth — the nonprofit foundation now has raised $250,000 for research, development and awareness of fetal therapies and surgeries.

“I love that we are able to offer hope to parents through the hard-working doctors who specialize in the field of Fetal Medicine,” Aran Hissam said.

The funds are raised through the Brianna Marie Foundation 5K Run/Walk held each March on or around Brianna Marie's birthday.

Gabe Montague of Viera thought the Brianna Marie Foundation 5K was for a worthy cause, and he made the 2016 race his first-ever 5K run.

Suntree Elementary School alumna Kiley Dwenger helps with the butterfly release station at the March 11 Brianna Marie Foundation 5K Run/Walk to celebrate the brief life of the infant, who would have attended the school alongside her brothers. | PHOTO BY MIKE GAFFEYAfter coming in sixth, the 13-year-old member of the Johnson Middle School track team tried again during the fifth annual run at Wickham Park on March 11. This time, he finished as the overall male champion with a time of 17 minutes, 38.3 seconds.

“I think their cause is pretty cool,” said Montague, one of 425 runners and walkers who helped raise $50,000 for fetal research. “I plan on running it every year.”

Brianna Marie succumbed to pulmonary hypertension caused by a condition called fetal hydrops, an abnormal buildup of fluid that prevented her lungs from fully developing. The malady affects between 1 in 600 to 1 in 4,000 pregnancies in the United States. Three fetal surgeries performed by Dr. Ruben Quintero of Miami were not enough to save her.

The foundation’s main fundraiser also featured a run for children 8 and younger and a silent auction that raised $6,095, Aran Hissam said. Key sponsors included Dr. Bradford Wolk, Hibiscus Women’s Care and the Fetal Health Foundation.

Funds have gone toward two previous grants named for Brianna Marie by the Fetal Health Foundation, which asked the couple to be on its selection committee. One grant funded the purchase of a 3-D printer for John Hopkins University so that doctors can print out a fetal abnormality before surgery. Another grant went to the University College of London Institute for Women’s Health, where the lead investigator is studying how to prevent congenital diaphragmatic hernia, an anomaly that disturbs fetal lung development.

The Hissams also have invested in Dr. Quintero’s research and in a study for a patch to be used in utero on fetuses with spina bifida.

Another benefit of the foundation is that it offers support to parents who have lost a child or are seeking help, Hissam said.

“I am not a doctor or a therapist but a parent who has lived through the unimaginable, and sometimes hearing from someone who has walked in their shoes helps,” she stated. 

For more information or to register early for the 2018 run/walk, go to briannamariefoundation.com