The only hope
“It was a big shock when my baby let out a scream in the delivery room. Everyone there started to cry.”
Vania Fernandez Chaidez knew there was no promise of a crying baby in the delivery room. Throughout the final weeks of her pregnancy, Vania and her infant struggled. In the 27th week, Vania began to feel huge—like she was carrying triplets. But, instead, fluid was building up in both Vania’s and the baby’s bodies, putting them both at risk.
The baby was diagnosed with fetal hydrops. It’s a serious condition where fluid abnormally fills compartments of the fetus. There was so much fluid building up that it was impossible to see if the baby’s heart and lungs were developing.
Throughout the next several weeks, physicians repeatedly drained fluid from Vania’s body, but it would just accumulate again. With more fluid accumulating around the baby, Dr. Suwan Mehra, a maternal fetal medicine physician and medical director of the Center for Fetal Care at Advocate Children’s Hospital came to talk with Vania and her husband, Tino. He wanted to discuss a unique procedure that could improve the infant’s chances for survival. The center offers the most advanced in-utero procedures for complex fetal abnormalities.
“Babies with fetal hydrops have a 60-80% mortality rate,” says Dr. Mehra. “It is so extremely hard to tell parents that their baby may not survive. While there were no guarantees, I told them if we placed a shunt in the baby’s lungs while she was still in the uterus, she might live.”
“I was terrified,” says Vania. “They told us to hang in there while they tried their best.”
Through ultrasound guidance, Dr. Mehra and his team placed a shunt in the baby’s lungs to drain fluid. It would give the fragile infant a chance to grow while still in the womb.
At 34 weeks, Vania went into labor. While the baby was still in the uterus, another procedure utilizing a needle and ultrasound was performed to drain residual fluid from her lungs. Then, lifted from her mother’s womb via C-section, baby Samantha cried.
“It was a very happy moment,” says Dr. Mehra. “With so much fluid pushing against her lungs and other vital organs for so long, it was impossible to know if she would survive. To hear such a vigorous baby, knowing she had such poor odds of survival, I was thrilled. The entire team was thrilled.”
Today, the ordeal is behind the Chaidez family. Little Samantha just turned one.
About the Author
Evonne Woloshyn, health enews contributor, is director of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. Evonne began her career as an anchor and reporter in broadcast news. Over the past 20 years, she has worked in health care marketing in both Ohio and Illinois. Evonne loves to travel, spend time with family and is an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan!