When I was 19 weeks pregnant, routine tests turned up excess fluid in my daughter Alaina’s chest cavity, stomach and forehead. It was very severe; she had so much extra fluid—a condition called fetal hydrops—that doctors didn’t know if she would make it. The fluid in her chest had built up so much pressure that it was like her heart and lungs were in a vise. Her heart was slowly suffocating.
To give her a fighting chance, the doctors went in several times with an amnio needle and drew fluid out. They said the fluid would likely come back—and it repeatedly did.
They sent me to OHSU.
When I got there, Cathy Cromett was extremely supportive and understood we were running through all different kinds of emotions, and took us everywhere we needed to go. I talked to Dr. Pereira, who, after having me do a number of tests including a fetal heart ultrasound, said we looked like a good candidate to have a shunt put in. The shunt is a tube that goes into the belly on a needle and is placed in the fetus’ chest, and drains the fluid. He was very cautious, but I sensed optimism—and it gave me hope.
Things went even better than we expected. For example, the shunt often has a lifespan of only 2-12 weeks, and I was told to expect to need one to two more shunt procedures before delivery. I didn’t. We thought she’d have difficulty making it to 32 weeks. She didn’t. After 21 weeks of nerve racking weekly ultrasounds to ensure the shunt was still in place and doing its job, Alaina was a full-term baby. When she was born, they had a team all ready to take her to the Doernbecher NICU—but she didn’t need to go. She’s a healthy, happy baby, who just celebrated her first birthday. And it’s all thanks to everyone at OHSU and Doernbecher.