Miracle Baby is home 0
SEAN CHASE Amy Belder cradles her 12-week-old baby daughter, Sophia, as husband Mark looks on. The infant was 11 weeks premature when she was born on July 4 after her mother suffered from a dangerously low blood platelet count.
In a single storey residence on Clemow Avenue, there's a miracle baby taking in her first breaths of home.
When your mother runs into serious complications three months before your due date forcing birth on the threshold of when survival is gravely in doubt, what else do you call it but a miracle.
It's amazing enough that Amy and Mark Belder can sit down in the living room and cradle their first-born daughter 12 weeks after she came into the world - barely 29 weeks into her mother's pregnancy.
When Sophia was born at a meagre two pounds, two ounces on July 4, the prognosis was not good. The couple wondered what the future would be for a child barely developed, however, they didn't despair.
"The odds really were against her," Amy, the proud mother, says holding the now six-pound, two ounces infant gently on her lap. "We knew she was having a hard time and that she was in trouble but we never thought she wasn't going to make it."
Amy fully expected to carry her baby to term with the due date being Sept. 19. That all changed in early June when she began feeling intense pain in her right side and experiencing vomiting far more severe than morning sickness. Sensing something was wrong, she visited the emergency room at the Pembroke Regional Hospital. There, the on-duty physician said she was imagining her condition.
Then she consulted with the Renfrew-based doctor scheduled to carry out the delivery. Dr. Jessica Bodig ordered a series of blood tests, a move that would save both Amy and yet-to-be born Sophia. It turned out that the platelets, or cells, in Amy's blood were extremely low. The normal number of platelets is between 150 and 400 million per millilitre of blood. Most pregnant women have normal numbers of platelets but about eight per cent have a slight drop in their platelet count. Hers was as low as 97 million.
It turned out she was suffering from HELLP Syndrome, which stands for Hemolysis, Elevated Liver enzymes, Low Platelet count. HELLP is a serious complication related to high blood-pressure during pregnancy. Red blood cells start to break down causing anemia, liver cells are damaged and this affects liver function, low platelet count which affects the ability of blood to clot. It is something that occurs to one in 1,000 mothers. Two days after the blood test was taken, Dr. Bodig called Amy to deliver the bad news.
"I realized doctors only call you if something is bad," she recalled.
Dr. Bodig reserved a room at the Ottawa General Campus where high risk deliveries were conducted and had dispatched an ambulance to Pembroke. By the time the couple reached the hospital they were informed the ambulance had been sent away as the emergency room physician believed there was nothing to worry about. Her blood platelet count had risen to 107, however, Amy's mother, a trained nurse, believed that was still dangerously low for a patient in her daughter's condition. Mark drove his wife to Ottawa and admitted her at the Ottawa General.
Amy was administered two steroid shots - one in Pembroke, the other in Ottawa - to strengthen the fetus' lungs, which would not have fully developed yet, and elevate the blood platelet count. When she began suffering from migraine headaches and experienced double vision, Amy was rushed to a high risk ward where a c-section was subsequently performed. Once Sophia was born, the mother was able to recover with two blood transfusions. Mark couldn't believe how tiny his newborn daughter was.
"I got to see her when she was 40 minutes old," he explained. "She was two sticks of butter put together, she was that small. I was wondering how is she alive right now? She was breathing on her own and crying."
The newborn was administered magnesium for her brain to prevent bleeding, however, she was still not out of the woods. As a premie, or premature baby, there were periods were she stopped breathing and required neonatal intensive care. Doctors also said she has a 15 to 20 per cent chance of being delayed with a slight learning disability.
In Canada, about seven per cent of babies are born prematurely each year. Generally, of those, 1.5 per cent of babies are born before 32 weeks and 0.4 per cent of babies are born very early, before 28 weeks. So far, baby Sophia appears to have perfect hearing, eyesight and has gained weight quicker than anticipated.
"She's doing better than expected," said Amy. "She's had zero complications."
Mark still can't believe his family's good fortune. Had his wife not gone to the hospital when she did, it's possible she would have suffered a fatal stroke due to the low level of blood platelets. He conceded his faith sustained the both of them through this trying period.
"The only way to get through this was just praying to God and taking it one day at a time," he said. "For her to come through all this and not a single thing be wrong with her, that's pretty incredible."
The couple are certainly thankful for all the support by family and friends and for the care shown by the doctors and staff at the Ottawa General Hospital. They are also grateful for the support of Ronald McDonald House where they stayed during Sophia's nearly two months of hospitalization.
There are no breathing tubes or incubation needed for this brave young infant nowadays. She is slowly growing stronger, more vibrant and her parents see a bright future on the horizon.
"We think there's something big out there for her," concluded Amy. "She had to get here really early, she had to make an entrance."
Sean Chase is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist