Priscilla Coolbaugh has seen the world. She’s been to places like China, Morocco, India and Iceland. She even studied in the Caribbean.
Her biggest adventure to date, however, has been the birth of her first child.
Coolbaugh, formerly Priscilla Houck, is a 2006 graduate of Wyoming Area. She was featured in the Sunday, Sept. 11, 2005 edition of the Sunday’s Dispatch “Spotlight” section. In 2005, Priscilla spent two and a half weeks in Ecuador building a school as part of her senior project.
A decade later, Priscilla is a resident of Midland, Texas. And for the last six weeks, the West Wyoming native has gone through one of the most trying, yet rewarding, times in her life — becoming a mother.
Becoming a mom
Priscilla and her husband Matt, who is originally from Exeter, welcomed Anna Louise Coolbaugh on Sept. 17, 2015 — 32 weeks ahead of schedule.
During her pregnancy, Priscilla developed pre-eclampsia, or high blood pressure. The condition can cause damage to organs in the body. Priscilla’s liver enzymes began to elevate, causing complications with her kidneys. Her symptoms began to worsen so the doctors decided it was time for little Anna to be introduced to the world.
“I was scared,” Priscilla said about the entire ordeal.
At the time, Matt was away on business in Boston. He had to fly home to be there for the birth. Priscilla said a baby shower was in the works, but Anna was born before the party date.
“I was supposed to have eight more weeks, but we are blessed,” she said. “It’s new and it’s a lot of worrying, but it’s fun, tiring and rewarding all at the same time.”
On Sept. 17, Anna weighed just 2 pounds, 7 ounces. She spent six weeks in neonatal care before the Coolbaughs could take her home. Now, at nearly 7 weeks old, Anna weighs 4 pounds, 13 ounces. Both mom and daughter are completely healthy.
Though Anna has been home for just over a week, she has quite the personality, Priscilla said.
“She is so tiny,” Priscilla said. “She knows what she wants and will tell you about it.”
November is Prematurity Awareness Month. It is also the month when the March of Dimes focuses the nation’s attention on premature birth. Nov. 17 is World Prematurity Day, and the March of Dimes partners with worldwide organizations to spread the word on the cause.
Priscilla said prematurity is the top cause for deaths in babies. She said she wants to get involved with March of Dimes.
“They’re really amazing,” she said.
Life after Greater Pittston
After graduating from Wyoming Area, Priscilla went to Penn State University and received her degree in life science. From there, she wanted to pursue medical school.
Matt and Priscilla lived on the Cayman Islands for two years while Priscilla attended medical school, during which time she and Matt were married.
Eventually, she realized that the medical field was not the right career path for her. At that time, her husband got accepted to law school and the couple moved to Waco, Texas.
Matt, also a 2006 Wyoming Area grad, received his law degree from Baylor University.
While in Waco, Priscilla worked for the City of Waco in the Department of Tourism. There, she would help people find interesting things to do in the city and help them get around.
“I really liked that,” she said. “You get to help people out and learn the history of the town and the history of Texas.”
She also worked in a dispute resolution center.
Two weeks ago is when the family moved to Midland. Currently, Priscilla is taking online classes to get her master of business administration (MBA). Down the road, she would like to work in human resources and customer service. Until then, she said, her top priority is caring for her brand new baby girl.
Traveling the world
When Priscilla was 17 years old, she embarked on a journey most teenagers never get a chance to experience.
Priscilla saw a story in a Christian newspaper about going to Ecuador on a trip to help needy families. At the time, traveling was very important to Priscilla and her family. She realized she needed numerous letters of recommendation and contacts, and she also had to raise money for the trip. So, that’s exactly what she did.
For two and a half weeks, Priscilla stayed at a 10-room orphanage for children whose parents had died of AIDS. Priscilla took a box of toys to the children, as well.
While in Ecuador, Priscilla helped build a school and even helped dig a 12-foot trench in front of the school.
“Any time you go somewhere, it’s always eye-opening,” she said. “Some places are beautiful and other places are in poverty — (there are) still dirt roads. It gives you perspective.”
During her childhood, Priscilla and her family traveled the globe, which included stops in China, Morocco, Iceland, India and Italy, to name a few.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick