Brianna Marie Foundation 5K set for March 11


For Aran Hissam of Suntree, the pain of losing her newborn daughter to a deadly illness in 2012 hasn’t faded. But neither has her commitment to spare others the grief her family endured.

In the five years since Brianna Marie died 15 hours after birth, the foundation that Hissam and her husband, Patrick, named for their daughter has raised more than $200,000 for fetal illness research, surgeries and awareness.

The fifth annual Brianna Marie Foundation 5K, the nonprofit’s chief fundraiser, starts at 7:30 a.m. March 11 at Wickham Park in Melbourne. The event will feature a silent auction with all proceeds benefiting the foundation, and a number of free activities for children, including a run for children 8 and younger.

“Running turned into my escape, my way to think, strategize and pray so I knew that when a friend recommended let’s put together a 5K for the foundation, it was the way to go,” Hissam said in a statement.

The mother of two boys, Hissam and her husband were preparing for the birth of their third child when a doctor told them after an ultrasound in November 2011 that their daughter had a fatal condition called fetal hydrops, a buildup of fluid that kept her lungs from developing.

After several fetal surgeries to help her lungs grow, Brianna Marie was born at 36 weeks on March 16, 2012, but succumbed to pulmonary hypertension hours later due to her lack of lung tissue.

“To put into words what it is like to lose a child is very difficult and all I can say is if you haven’t experienced it — it is unimaginable,” Hissam stated. “Holding your baby as their heart stops beating, leaving the hospital empty and then being expected to return to your normal life is something no parent should ever experience.”

The couple launched the foundation in September 2012 to raise money and awareness of fetal hydrops and fetal surgeries. 

“We felt that far too many people (and doctors) did not know that fetal surgeries were options for many patients when a negative diagnosis is given,” Hissam stated. “They can’t save all babies, but if we could help in just saving one, our journey would have even more meaning.”

Partnering with the Fetal Health Foundation, the couple were honored when the foundation named one of their grants the Brianna Marie Memorial Grant and asked them to be on the selection committee. One of these grants 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 (CDH), an anomaly that disturbs fetal lung development.

The Hissams also have used foundation funds to invest in the research of fetal surgeon Dr. Ruben Quintero, who performed surgeries on their daughter.

For Hissam, who recently was named a board member of the Fetal Health Foundation and who wrote a book about her ordeal titled, “My Journey with an Angel,” her daughter is constantly on her mind.

“As a parent, I still wonder many days what my daughter would look like or be doing five years later,” she stated. “Would she like dance or enjoy throwing a baseball — like her brothers?

“Until that day when I meet her again I live each day to make her proud.” 

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